I’m not going to lie. I hated learning grammar in school. And really, when you’re speaking, unless you’re speaking to one of those annoying people that love to correct people’s grammar, no one cares. When you’re writing, though, it’s a different manner.
One area that can trip up writers of all abilities is homonyms and homophones. These are words that sound the same and have a different meaning, but may have the same spelling (in the case of homonyms) or sounds the same and have a different meaning and spelling (in the case of homophones). Homophones are a type of homonym.
To, too and two are homonyms and homophones. They sound the same, they have different meanings and they’re spelled differently. Fair (as in just) and fair (as in a church fair) are homonyms but not homophones. They sound the same and have different meanings, they also have the same spelling.
Uhg. I still hate grammar. But the reason I’m torturing myself with this is for your benefit, because homonyms and homophones can not be picked up by your spell checker, and the grammar checker will struggle.
Take this example:
Can you see the homonyms?
I wrote the passage in Word and none of the homonyms/homophones were picked up. If you’re relying on your word processor to pick up these errors, then you’re in for trouble. How much trouble depends on how important the piece of writing is. What doesn’t matter for a diary entry, might be a big deal in your uni essay or that short story you want to publish.
So what’s the answer? Go old school and read your work yourself, and out loud. Then, pass it on to a friend or someone you trust to read it. They’re likely to pick up things you missed.
For better or worse, whether we like it or not (and I don’t), grammar does matter in certain situations and writing is one of them. If you’re curious about other homonyms/homophones that are lying in wait to trip you up, just ask Google. He knows everything.