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Dental Specialties Project Guide: Common Writing Errors

Most Commonly Confused Homophones

Top Most Commonly Confused Homophones

1. affect/effect

Use affect to indicate influence: The medicine did not affect her the way the doctor had hoped.

Use effect as a noun: The new medicine had negative side effects.

2. than/then

Use than for comparisons: John is much taller than his brother.

Use then to indicate passage of time, or when: We went to the park in the morning, and then we left to pick up lunch.

3. which/witch

Use which as a pronoun when referring to things or animals:  Cora wore her shoes, which she received as a gift.

Use witch to mean a scary or nasty person: The Halloween witch decorations must finally come down off of the wall!


4. accept/except

Use accept as a verb to mean receive: The organization will accept donations through the first of the month.

Use except as a preposition to mean exclude:  You may donate all items except car seats and cribs.

5. weather/whether

Use weather when referring to the state of the atmosphere: The constantly changing springtime weather is driving us crazy.

Use whether as a conjunction to introduce choices: Please tell us whether you would prefer steak or salmon for dinner.

6. there/their/they're

There can act as different parts of speech, depending on how it is used in a sentence. Most commonly, it is used as a pronoun or adverb.

There will be a lot to eat at the party tonight.  (pronoun)

Put the book over there.  (adverb)

Their is a pronoun.

The students put their coats in the closet.

They're is the contraction for they are

They're going to have practice immediately after school today.


7. to/too/two

To can be a preposition.

We're going to the park.

To can indicate an infinitive when it precedes a verb.

We want to help in any way we can.

Too is an adverb that can mean excessively when it precedes an adjective or adverb.

I ate too much ice cream for dessert.

Too is a synonym for also.

I ate too much ice cream for dessert, too.

Two is a number.  

Marcy ate two pieces of pie.

I have two books I'd like to read.

8. you're/ your

You're is a contraction for you are.

You're going to absolutely love this new recipe.

Your is a pronoun.

Please bring your books to class with you tomorrow.


9. aloud/allowed

Use aloud when referring to something said out loud:  Reading aloud –and doing it well–is a skill that requires much practice.

Use allowed when referring to something permitted:  Dogs are not allowed to be on school property between 2:45-4pm.

10.  lie/lay

Use lie to indicate the act of reclining:  I am tired just watching the dog lie in the warm sunlight.

Use lay to indicate the placement of something:  Please lay the paper on the table.   

Lay is a transitive verb, which means it always needs an object! Something is always being put down; lie, on the other hand, will never have an object because it is an intransitive verb.


to lie: lie(s), lay, lain, lying

to lay: lay(s), laid, laid, laying

11. it's/its

It's is the contraction for it is.

It's raining today, so the baseball game will be cancelled.

Its is the possessive form ("possessive" means belongs to) of it.

The cat is licking its paws.

12. capital/capitol

Use capital when referring to a city, a wealth or resources, or an uppercase letter: The capital of Maryland is the gorgeous city of Annapolis.  

Use capitol when referring to a building where lawmakers meet: The capitol has undergone extensive renovations this year.

13. principle/principal

Use principle as a noun meaning a basic truth or law: Many important life principles are learned in kindergarten.

Use principal as a noun meaning the head of a school or organization, or a sum of money: The principal is a well-respected member of the community because of the hard work and effort she puts forth in her position.


14. were/where/we’re

Were is the past tense for are.

Where refers to a place.

We’re is the contraction for we are.


From: -homophones

Common Writing Errors

Common Writing Mistakes:

  1. Capitalization errors:  Capitalize the first word in every sentence.  Capitalize proper names.  

  2. Using first or second person proper nouns in academic writing (you or I).

  3. Using contractions in academic writing (can’t, don’t, he’ll, etc.)

  4. Misspellings (Common ones: their, they’re, there).

  5. Run-on sentences: Use punctuation properly to break up sentences.

  6. Fragments: A sentence missing a verb or a phrase.

  7. Tone: Do not use a casual tone in academic writing.  For example, no exclamation points, slang, or language that sounds like you’re talking to your friend.

  8. Citation: You should have a citation after a paraphrase or quote.

  9. Start a sentence with BUT or AND.



Cleaning a tusk is really tough! To cleann a tusk, the elephant is first put in a harness in the zoo’s medical facility.  the dentist carefully scrapes the hard and soft deposits around the gumline after flossin the tusks are polished with a special elephant formula.  X-rays for elephnts once every two years.  And if the tusk’s beyond saving, you have to remove it for the safe of the elephant.


In order to clean an elephant’s tusk, the elephant is first placed in a harness in the zoo’s medical facility.  The dentist carefully scrapes the hard and soft deposits around the gumline. After flossing, the tusks are polished using a specialized formula for elephants.  X-rays are obtained on elephants once every two years.  If the tusk is beyond saving, then it must be removed for the safety of the elephant (Bellows & Glover, 2012).