The Internet: Homonym Heaven

By Judy Vorfeld

Have you ever visited a visually attractive site and then spotted phrases such as, "If your interested in learning more about our Websight, e-mail us," or "This product comes with an unconditional guarantee. It's high quality will make you're life better!"? How about, "Body fat problems? We can help. Of coarse you need patients when it comes to reducing the access around you're waste."

You have just entered the puzzling world of homonyms (same: homo - name: nym). A homonym is a word with the same pronunciation as another but with a different meaning and origin and usually, different spelling as well. These little critters run rampant through cyberspace, especially on Websites, often turning away potential clients/customers.

Rather than rip apart people who use homonyms in their text, I want to offer some friendly help. We'll use some of the most common mistakes and offer alternatives according Webgrammar's Style!

All right: all right means okay, satisfactory, agreeable, safe, good, well.

Alright: While alright is used often in fictional dialogue, and is still preferred by some writers of journalistic and business publications, we'll merely say that it is outdated for daily use.

ITS vs. IT'S
Its: The possessive form of the pronoun it. NEVER written with an apostrophe. Since most possessives have apostrophes, this confuses many people.

It's: contraction of it is and it has. Examples: It's time to go ... It's been great ... It's a well-designed site.

Your shows ownership: it's your choice ... it's your money ... it's your Website.

You're is a contraction of "you" and "are." Example: You're heading in the right direction.

Both words: "You're taking a big risk with your animated graphics."

Their: possessive form of the word "they." As with the possessive of it, you do NOT use an apostrophe for this word. You say, "Their site is colorful, crisp, and clear."

They're: Contraction of the words "they" and "are." Example: They're giving away powerful prizes.

There: at or in that place, e.g., "Now there is a sound system to die for."

All three: They're eating their hot fudge sundaes before heading over there.

Principal: first in authority; main participant; amount of a debt, investment, minus the interest, or on which interest is computed. Examples: She is a high school principal ... K. A. Simpson is a principal in the firm ... he still owes $5,000 on the principal.

Principle: basic truth or assumption. His ethics and principles are lower than a snake slithering on its stomach.

If you're a Website owner who has problems with homonyms, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, or just plain writing, don't be discouraged! You have a number of choices:

  • Ignore the fact and hope no one notices. After all, you have a great product or service!
  • Keep a good dictionary on your desk at all times, use it frequently, and guard it with your life.
  • Hire a copyeditor to proof your words.
  • Ask a friend to proof your words. If your friend isn't tactful and you're rather sensitive, you may end up with one less friend and a hole in your heart.
  • Find one of the many sites designed to help you with specific grammar and language problems. See the list below.
  • Ask Webgrammar for advice at


Alan Cooper's Homonyms
Self-study Homonym Quizzes
Notorious Confusables
Homonyms, Homophones, Homographs, & Heteronyms

©Copyright Judy Vorfeld. First published in The Internet Insider, a publication of AIS Media.

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