Words We Confuse That Spellcheckers Miss, Parts N and O

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Homophones cause all kinds of problems for spellers. They are words that sound alike, but are spelled differently. I’m covering all the most common ones a post at a time. Today’s is all about the homophones starting with N or O. If you don’t see one you’re looking for, like no/know, check the K’s.

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nay/nee/neigh

In formal voting, nay is the negative alternative to aye. It can also mean “not only but also” when used like this:

Brian has defeated many, nay legions, of arm wrestling opponents.

Nee, which normally rhymes with gray and not glee, means “born.” It is customarily placed after a married woman’s name to indicate her maiden name.

Helen Elizabeth Wasko, nee Regan

Neigh, of course, is the sound a horse makes.

naval/navel

Naval means of or relating to the navy, warships, or ships in general. Navel is the belly-button or formally, umbilicus.

Because seafaring can be dull at times, naval commanders often have time for navel-gazing.

not/knot

Not is a common adverb indicating a negation. Knots are what you find in string, rope, or hair. Confusion of these two is typically due to simple carelessness.

I do not know how to tie a good knot.

oar/or/ore

You propel a boat with an oar. The coordinating conjunction that indicates an alternative is or, and rock that contains metal that can be profitably mined is ore.

Should I propel this boat full of ore with an oar, or can I use the motor?

oh/owe

Oh is a common interjection indicating surprise or pleasure. Owe is a verb meaning “to be indebted to.”

Oh! I almost forgot I owe you five bucks.

one/won

The number or pronoun is spelled one. The past tense of the verb win is spelled won.

I won one game of checkers.

overdo/overdue

These two are commonly confused. Be careful. If you try too hard at something, or take it to an extreme, you overdo it. If something is late, it is overdue, or past due.

I don’t want to overdo my complaining, but your assignment is two weeks overdue.

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Feel free to leave your comments, questions, or suggestions below.

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian Wasko

Brian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.

View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko10-18-2012

    Christina, it means a lot for folks to take the time to make encouraging comments like yours. Thank you!

  2. Christina
    Christina10-18-2012

    I stumbled upon your website while digging around a few weeks ago on the web for more information on grammar and writing. Your posts are interesting and there is always something that I learn or is clarified for me in your writing.
    I really like these what spell check cannot catch – we are too dependent upon a computer telling us how to spell and it can lead to disastrous results. Keep up the great work.

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