Proper usage of the words “there,” “their” and “they’re” won’t be a problem if you use a new web application created by a 1997 Waterloo High School graduate.
Jason Braun, who currently teaches English composition at Southern Illinois University and is associate editor of the Sou’wester, a national literary magazine published through SIUE, has released the world’s first homophone checker, www.homophonecheck.com.
It is a free web app that allows writers to quickly proofread for errors that word-processing software typically skips over. Writers can copy text and paste it into the homophone checker, Braun said. Then, 40 of the most commonly confused homophones — words that sound the same but are spelled differently — are highlighted automatically. When writers move their cursor over the highlighted homophones, a box pops up showing each possible word, its part of speech, and a grammatically correct example sentence.
Although Braun has published extensively, he has dyslexia and has struggled with these homophones himself.
While teaching English composition, Braun found errors in students writing, distracting from the content of their papers. He complained to his colleagues for a while. They concurred. Then he analyzed the most frequent errors in student papers and conducted an informal survey of his colleagues to determine the most common homophone confusions in student work. Braun then made a list of these words, along with the parts of speech they belong to and an example sentence for each.
Braun collaborated with computer programmer and artist Dan McKenzie on this project. Last year, they created an iPhone app that was the 144th most downloaded paid business app on iTunes.
“Many people will find this to be a valuable resource. I believe this will help quite a few of my writing students at all levels — not only in terms of proofing their papers, but in learning to recognize the homophones that cause them the most trouble,” stated SIUE English professor Valerie Vogrin.