That Sounds About Right

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The Internet loves correcting other people’s grammar. But you’re your grammar mistakes are often the result of how the brain functions rather than ignorance, cognitive scientists have learned. The Washington Post reports that the reason we often end up with homophone errors is that the brain double checks our writing with the way a word sounds, leading to common errors:

The brain doesn’t always consult a word’s sound, but studies have shown that it frequently falls back on it, and sound tells us nothing about the difference between “you’re” and “your.” Research on typing errors reveals that sound creates even odder mistakes, such as people writing “28” when they mean to type “20A.” It’s no wonder that people who know better will routinely confound closer pairings such as “it’s” and “its” or “know” and “no.”


Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →