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Public editor: Knowing write from wrong: tripped up by homophones

Homophones are those words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things. According to a website devoted to homophones, there are more than 400 of them. Some of them are pretty obscure, while others are very common. (And by the way if you take a look at this list, many of them aren't really homophones because the pronunciation is different.) But it is some of those common ones that have tripped up The Globe and Mail lately.

A story about a court ruling talked about "writing the wrongs" when it should have said "righting." Another article referred to a cinnamon role rather than roll.

It's even tougher to see these problems in the big type – in photo cutlines or headlines. On Wednesday a headline said: "As the nominations pore in, it's clear Canada's got talent." Fortunately the readers have a sense of humour and one noted, "What Canada has always needed: some skin in the game." A photo cutline last week said travellers crowded into cues when it should have said queues. A letter to the editor from Laurie Johnston said "…Travellers crowded into cues to board planes ... Pooling their resources to do so, one suspects."

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It's good to see a few readers who can laugh about these errors, but others quite rightly said they expect much better from The Globe.

So, too, do the editors, who hate to see these embarrassing mistakes.

Senior editor Martina Blaskovic sent a note to staff in November about homophone horrors.

If you would like to comment on this, please do so below. Or you can send me an e-mail on this or any other issue at publiceditor@globeandmail.com

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About the Author
Public Editor

Sylvia Stead has been a reporter and editor at the Globe since 1975, after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She won the Board of Governors Award there in 1974. As a reporter, Sylvia covered courts, education and Queen's Park. More

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