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Right, Rite, Wright, Write

Commonly Confused Words

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These four homophones have very different meanings and uses.

The noun rite refers to a formal ceremony or religious practice ("the rite of baptism").

A more common word is right, which can be a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. Right has various meanings, including correct, fitting, and direct ("the right answer," "turn right," "the woman on the right").

The noun wright refers to a person who builds or repairs something (as in playwright).

The verb write means to mark, form letters, or compose.

Examples:

  • Retirement ceremonies and farewell parties are part of the rites of passage when employees retire or resign.

  • "Perhaps it is better to be irresponsible and right, than to be responsible and wrong." (Winston Churchill)

  • Gus drove to the next block and turned right.

  • A master shipwright is a person who has learned to use his skills with precision and is capable of teaching them to others.

  • If you want to be a writer, you must write.

Comic Observations: "Write Written Right"

Write we know is written right,
When we see it written write;
But when we see it written wright,
We know it is not written right:
For write, to have it written right,
Must not be written right or wright,
Nor yet should it be written rite;
But write, for so 'tis written right.
(Gleanings From the Harvest Fields of Literature, Science and Art: A Melange of Excerpta, Curious, Humorous, and Instructive, 2nd ed., collated by Charles C. Bombaugh. T. Newton Kurtz, 1860)


Practice:

(a) The bear looked _____ at me and then slowly walked away.

(b) The _____ of passage was a three-day ritual to welcome young people of the village to the world of adulthood.

(c) Merdine made up her mind _____ then and there to go back to school.

(d) "History will be kind to me for I intend to _____ it." (Winston Churchill)

(e) The only _____ thing to do was to go back home and apologize.


Answers to Practice Exercises

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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