Microsoft Word is one of the most feature-rich and widely used word processors on the market and will no doubt continue to be for the moment. Still, in spite of all its ingenious bells and whistles, newspaper editors, college professors, students, writers and non-professional users have all complained in writing, and perhaps also under their breath, about the unexplained absence of a most sorely needed feature that would be the crowning, finishing touch to Microsoft Word: a homonym checker. They lament that even a third party Microsoft Word add-in program would be welcomed.
For those who may not know, a homonym is basically one of two or more words that sound the same but has a very different meaning. Some examples are would and wood, your and you’re, right and rite, sole and soul, meat and meet. There are thousands more. You can understand why so many people use the wrong homonym. They are writing what sounds right. Websites are loaded with homonym errors. You will also find them in newspapers, resumes, term papers, legal documents and dozens of other places. Virtually wherever there’s a document, there’s a good chance of finding a homonym error.
If you were to type the following sentence, “Bye a gnu pear of shoos fore my ant“, using the latest version of MS Word (2007 version), the program would underline gnu and fore with a blue squiggly line, thereby alerting you to the fact that a different word, (in this case a homonym) might be preferable. Pretty neat, right? But what about bye, pear, shoos, and ant? Even though spelled correctly, they are glaring contextual homonym errors. Sadly, Word only partially addresses this problem. Hmmmm… Could we use a Microsoft Word add-in here?
Homonym errors are among the most common mistakes in writing today. Whether you are a student, a writer, a teacher, a lawyer or someone who just needs to write a letter, resume, or some other document from time to time, you no doubt need to produce documents that have no grammatical errors. Your life would be so much easier if there were a program, perhaps a Word add-in, that automatically checks each homonym for proper usage and then, at your request, deletes all improperly used homonyms, replacing them with the correct homonym based on context. Imagine the time you could save, not to mention the added luxury of producing documents totally free of homonym errors.
Is such a program just wishful thinking or a dream? Actually no. There are some serious minded entrepreneurs who are firmly convinced that such a Microsoft Word add-in program is well within our reach. What’s more, there is solid evidence that such a program already exists!
In the meantime, here are some tips on how you can produce documents free of homonym errors until you might find such an add-in program:
1. Bookmark one of the many online sites that offer a free online homonym dictionary or homonym definition lists
2. Always use a spell checker first. Then…
3. Re-read your document specifically to find all the homonyms
4. Verify if you have used the correct homonym by checking the word in your online dictionary
5.. Add to your vocabulary: make it a goal to learn a few new homonyms each week. There are dozens of lists on the internet.
All the above may require some additional effort, but if your line of work demands flawless documents you will agree that the benefits to be gained are well worth the effort.