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Homophone Potpourri Series: Part VI


By special request, here's another installment of the Homophone Potpourri Series!

Last week, we discussed role vs. roll, wander vs. wonder, and weather vs. whether. If you missed last week's tip, you can read it here. This week we'll be addressing the following homophones: a lot vs. allot vs. alot and wary vs. weary vs. leery.

The English language brings with it a never-ending list of homophones, or
words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings.¹ Many spelling errors occur because of confusion between homophones, so this week's tip features a "potpourri" of homophones for your comparison.

The following definitions are excerpts from Dictionary.com. Example sentences are original content provided by Accu-Assist.

A lot vs. Allot vs. Alot
●   A lot: to a very great degree or extent; a large quantity or number.
(a = indefinite article / lot = noun)
  Example: I have a lot of paperwork to do before I can go to bed tonight.
●   Allot: to divide or distribute by share or portion; distribute or parcel out; apportion. (verb)
  Example: The inheritance will be allotted evenly between the two of us.
●   Alot: Contrary to popular belief, alot is not a word! It should always be written as two words—a lot—when referring to a large quantity or number.
Wary vs. Weary vs. Leery
●   Wary: watchful; being on one's guard against danger. (adj)
   Example: You should always be wary of signing a contract before reading it.
●   Weary: physically or mentally exhausted by hard work, exertion, strain, etc.; fatigued; tired. (adj)
  Example: After making a 20-hour drive, he was weary of traveling.
●   Leery: wary; suspicious. (adj)
  Example: You should always be leery of signing a contract before reading it.

Important Note: Did you notice that the words wary and leery are synonyms? You probably also noticed that the word leery is not technically a homophone of wary or weary since it begins with the letter L. However, I've seen many people use the word weary when they really mean wary or leery. For example, they'll accidentally write, "You should always be weary of signing a contract before reading it." Either wary or leery could be used here, but not weary.

I believe this mishap often occurs because it's very easy for the brain to blend together the synonyms wary and leery to form weary. To remember the difference, you can associate the word weary with the phrase wearing out.

Did any of these homophones take you by surprise? I'd love to hear about it! Just email me to let me know which ones were new to you.

Remember, spell-checker won't catch these words if they're used incorrectly, so be sure to add the Grammar Tips & Tidbits Archive to your bookmarks or favorites folder for future reference.

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1. Wikipedia contributors. "Homophone." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homophone (accessed October 31, 2007).

2. Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/ (accessed October 31, 2007).