Cite, Site or Sight? Help with homophones

August 25, 2016

Dr. Jennifer C van Velkinburgh, Filipodia Publishing


A particularly confusing (and common pitfall of writers who are non-native English speakers) is the existence — and plethora! — of homophones among the English language.


What are homophones? Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings (cite, site and sight); they may be spelled differently (role and roll) or be conjunctions (their and they’re).


Unfortunately, the best way to recognize homophones is just to learn which ones exist and learn their correct meanings. (This really is where your trust in your editor comes into play — knowing that you are working with an expert editor who is capable of finding and correcting all instances of confused homophones in your manuscript.)


Here is a list of a few of the most commonly confused homophones that Filipodia editors encounter in their daily work on scientific and clinical articles:


Cite, site and sight

Cite: to quote or reference something

Example: “The authors have cited the original report by Smith et al. in the revised text.”

Site: an area (location) or targeted place

Example: “The site of injection was the right flank.”

Sight: vision, the ability to see

Example: “The transcortical approach provides a direct line of sight.”


Role and roll

Role: function or action carried out by a person, place or thing

Example: “The primary role of the immune system is to recognize and remove factors that cause disease.”

Roll: to move by turning over and over

Example: “In extravasation, leukocytes roll along the vessel wall.”


Their, they’re and there

Their: possessive determiner of a person or thing previously mentioned in the sentence

Example: “The tumor obscured their ability to visualize the gland.”

They’re: conjunction of ‘they are’

Example: “After ensuring complete sedation, they’re ready to perform the first incision.”

There: indicating a place or position of a noun

Example: “Please place the scalpel over there on the counter.”


To, too and two

To: expressing motion, or identifying the noun affected in a sentence

Example: “The patient began to ambulate 2 days after surgery.”

Too: also

Example: “The patient showed signs of nausea, too.”

Two: the number 2

Example: “The subgroup consisted of two mice only, precluding statistical analysis.”


Acclamation and acclimation

Acclamation: to boisterously praise or approve

Example: “Dr. Smith received the audience’s acclamation for his oral presentation describing the successful treatment of this rare case.”

Acclimation: to become accustomed to a new condition or environment

Example: “The mice underwent a 3-day period of acclimation to the laboratory environment prior to experimentation.”