Dear Alesa: Homophone Horrors!

Posted on 02.13.2015

Dear Alesa—

Help! I am having a difficult time trying to remember all the homonyms, and I keep messing them up while I’m transcribing. Do you have any tips to help me distinguish which word I should use in a given circumstance?

Scared of Homophones

Dear Scared—

Homophones can be extra tricky, especially when it comes to transcription because context isn’t always immediately evident. Knowing your homophones and when to use them can really save you some transcription headaches while editing your reports.

Let’s have a little grammar lesson just in case anyone isn’t familiar with the word homophone. Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of how they are spelled. There are 2 main types of homophones: homographs and heterographs. Homographs are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings (e.g. affect [to produce an effect] and affect [external expression of emotion]). Heterographs have different spellings and different meanings (e.g. to, two, too, their, there, they’re, accept, except).

Okay, now that we have that tiny lesson out of the way, how can you ensure you’ve got the right word every time? Here are some quick tips:

1. Dictionary Sites
Keep a dictionary site like in your favorite sites list. That gives you the ability to quickly look up the word and ensure it means what you think it means. This is the easiest way, but it can be time consuming looking up each word.

2. Lists
The Mastering Medical Language module in your CareerStep Medical Transcription Editor program has an extensive list of medical homonyms/homophones. We’ve even placed them in handy-dandy PDF files so you can download the lists and quickly search them. Those lists will be extremely helpful when it comes to medical terms and transcribing.

3. Use Picture or Phrase Associations
When trying to remember homophones, try using a picture or phrase association to help you remember.  For example, let’s take access and axis (both terms you’ll hear when transcribing medical reports). When I think of the word access, I’ve associated a water canal with it—a place where water will enter a city. When I think of the word axis, I’ve associated that with a line that things can rotate around.  When I’m listening to a medical report and I hear this homophone, I will do a quick check of the context of the sentence to see which picture fits better.

I hope this information helps. Remember, you can always contact Student Support if you need additional tips and tricks!

Alesa L., BS, MTE