Make That “Home In”

Portion of headline in Huffington Post, October 5, 2013:

Ex-Husband Overdoses as Police Hone In

Police do NOT hone in, HP, nor does anyone else. We hone (or sharpen) knives and skills and mental acuity but home in (or zero in) on ex-husbands and discussion topics and solutions and such. The increasingly common confusion between home and hone is in league with mix-ups of other sound-alike words – e.g., jive for jibe, tenant for tenet, hurdle for hurtle.

Even more confusing than sound-alikes are homonyms,* words pronounced exactly the same but with very different meanings (think reign and rein, principle and principle, or there and their and they’re). The way to steer clear of such malapropisms? Open a dictionary, be it online or off a bookshelf – a simple act that will easily hone your speaking and writing prowess.

*For more on these accidents waiting to happen, see Hazardous Homonyms.

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