Here are some homophones and near homophones) that frequently give people grief:
* Tenant/tenet: A tenant is a person who rents a property; a tenet is a foundational belief.
"It's a tenet of business that rental property must have a tenant."
* Principle/principal: A principle is a rule or standard; principal means a person in charge or, in finance, capital input before return on investment.
"The school must be guided by its principal, but the principal must be guided by his principles." "A principled man will invest his principal wisely."
* Reign/rein/rain: Most often sabotaged by the phrase, "reign in," as in "Congress tried to reign in spending." What the writer probably means, however, is that Congress tried to slow down spending as one would a horse, by "reining it in." "To reign" means "to rule," particularly in a royal sense, so as the acknowledged world leader in knowing how to scatter money to the four winds, it is technically correct to say that Congress reigns in spending, which has the effect of raining on the economy.
* Their/there/they're: "Their" is possessive; "there" means in a particular place, manner or respect; "they're" is a contraction of "they are."
"See those tourists? They're standing over there with their cameras."
* It's/its: "It's" is a contraction of "it is"; "its" is possessive.
"It's obvious that a good cup of coffee is worth its price."
* Who's/whose: "Who's" is a contraction of "who is." "Whose" is possessive.
"Who's going to get to the finish line first? It depends on whose car is fastest."
* Accept/except: "Accept" means to take. "Except" means "with the exclusion of" or, as a verb, "to exclude."
"Except for the item in Paragraph 3, I accept your offer."
* Aisle/isle/I'll: "Aisle" is an area for walking between shelves, seats or other fixtures. "Isle" is a piece of land surrounded by water. "I'll" is a contraction of "I will" or "I shall."
"My daughter is getting married on Martha's Vineyard. I'll walk her down the aisle on the isle."
* Do/dew/due: "Do" is almost always a verb unless it refers to a hairstyle. "Dew" is moisture that forms on surfaces. "Due" can mean likely, owed, proper or adequate.
"If you do a run through grass covered with dew, you're due to get wet feet."
Ant eff ewe kin keep all that strait, Yule half good ewes of yore native tung.
Errol Castens is Oxford bureau reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at email@example.com.