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How to improve your spelling

Spelling sound-a-like words

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Sound-alike words are simply words that sound the same but are spelt differently. This can be quite confusing, and sound-alike are often a source of misspelt words. The information on this page will take you through the six most common misspelt sound-alike word groups and give you some ideas of how to remember which is the correct word.

The six most common misspelt sound-alike groups are:

Their/There

'Their' refers to an object or action that belongs to a person.

'There' refers to a place or a way to explain that something exists.

This rule is easy to remember as 'their' contains an 'i' and it refers to an object belonging to a person. 'There', on the other hand, contains the word 'here' and describes a location.

For example:

The boys were playing with their football.

We are going to the field over there.

There were 12 pictures in this room, originally.

Our/Are/Hour

'Our' refers to something that belongs to a group of people, including yourself.

'Are' is the plural of the word 'is.'

'Hour' refers to sixty minutes of time.

A good way to remember the difference between these words is that the hands of a clock point to the hour. (Hands and hour both begin with a 'h'). And 'our' is the opposite of 'your' which contains 'our'. Providing you can remember these two rules, simply use 'are' in all other situations.

For example:

We played with our new kitten.

There are two sandwiches in the basket.

It will take one hour to get there.

Where/were/wear/we're

'Where' refers to a place.

'Were' is the past-tense of 'are'

'Wear' refers to putting on clothes.

'We're' is a shortened version of 'we are', the 'a' in 'are' is replaced with an apostrophe and the two words are pushed together. (For more information on this, see the punctuation module.)

A couple of tips to help you remember these rules are that 'where' describes a place and contains the word 'here' which also describes a place. And 'wear' includes the word 'ear', as in: 'I wear my earring on my ear'.

For example:

Where is the restaurant?

There were two sandwiches until I ate one.

I will wear my new dress.

Today we're focusing on spelling.


Here/hear

'Here' refers to a place.

'Hear' refers to how we process sound.

The best way to remember this is that we 'hear' with our 'ear'!

For example:

Here is my coat.

I can hear you.

You're/Your

Watch the following clip and take note of Ross Geller's sound-alike spelling tip!

Click here to watch Ross's spelling tip

"Y-o-u apostrophe r-e means you are, y-o-u-r means your!"

In other words:

'You're' is a shortened version of 'you are'.

'Your' refers to something that belongs to you.

For example:

You're very good at spelling

This is your coat

Effect/affect

'Effect' refers to the consequence of something, and is often a noun (a naming word).

'Affect' means to have an influence on something or somebody, usually someone's feelings, and is often a verb (an action word).

For example

The effect of the new paint was astounding.

The man was deeply affected by the death of his dog.

Again, this is a hard rule to remember. Perhaps you could think that you could be 'affected' by a display of 'affection.' Despite the fact you may just have to sit down and practise this until you remember it, the difference between effect and affect is very important as these words are used a lot in essays and reports.

Activity: Effect Vs Affect - 10 minutes

1. Replace the underlined word in the following sentences with the correct word; effect or affect. Write the anwers in your notes.

2. Compare your answers to the answers shown below.

3. If you didn't get all of the answers correct, you may wish to re-read the effect/affect explanation.


The consequence of the new paint in the room was astounding.

The __________ of the new paint in the room was astounding.


The man was deeply influenced by his travels.

The man was deeply ________ by his travels.


The response of the two chemicals combining was a big explosion.

The _______ of the two chemicals combining was a big explosion.


The pupils were excited by the chemical reaction, in a positive way.

The pupils were ______ by the chemical reaction, in a positive way.

How did you do?

When you have finished this activity, you can check your answers here.

The next activity will give you a chance to practise using all the different sound-alike words you have learnt about on this page. The sound-alike word groups that you have covered are:

Activity: Practicing sound-a-like words - 10 minutes

1. For the sound-alike word groups explained above, write a sentence containing each word in your notes.

For example:

It was in their interest to learn how to spell

There were two sandwiches in the basket

2. Then try to write a sentence including all of the sound-alike words for that rule. For example:

There were 2 sandwiches in their basket

3. Number these 1a, 1b and 1c etc, so for sound-alike word group 1, (their and there), my sentence layout would look like this:

1a) It was in their interest to learn how to spell.

1b) There were two sandwiches in the basket

1c) There were two sandwiches in their basket

4. And for sound-alike word group 2, (our/are/hour), my sentence layout would look like this:

2a) It is our turn to play with the football

2b) We are going to play with the football

2c) We will be playing with the football for the next hour

2d)We are going to play with our football for the next hour

5. Type up these sentences on the spelling discussion board in our community forums. Other users taking the spelling module will be able to give you feedback, and let you know how many sentences you spelt correctly.

6. You can also check other student's spelling and give them feedback, as this will help you to remember all the sound-alike spellings.

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