Homophone of the Month: Rein vs. Reign

editors-cornerBy Chris Saylor

As one of my monthly features, I cover homophones. I’m going to explain the different meanings, and whenever I can, I’ll give you little tricks to help you remember the difference between them. If nothing else, you’ll at least realize going forward that these two words might be confused, and you’ll know when to look up the correct meaning.

(If you missed the first installment, homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things.)

Today’s homophone comes courtesy of J’aime: rein vs. reign.

According to Merriam-Webster, rein is used in three ways. Below are some examples of the word:

I pulled back on the reins, easing Max to a stop (a strap fastened to a bit by which a rider or driver controls an animal—usually used in plural).

The officials calling the Raiders game kept a tight rein on the action (a restraining influence).

The election will determine who will hold the reins of power for the next several years (controlling or guiding power).

Reign means something different. For example:

Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has been marked by unprecedented prosperity for the British people (the period of time during which a king, queen, emperor, etc., is ruler of a country).

These two words are often confused because, not only do they sound alike, but they also both have the idea of control or power behind them. The difference is that rein refers to an act or an item, and reign refers to a period of time.

These two words can also be confused with rain, which is the wet stuff that falls from the sky.

What words do you have trouble telling apart? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll make sure to feature them later.

Every Saturday for the foreseeable future, I’ll be here in the Editor’s Corner, simplifying some of these grammar concepts for you and showing you how they specifically apply to your fiction. Coming up next is Misplaced Modifiers.

Want to hire Chris for a proofread or copy edit? You can find out more about him at https://saylorediting.wordpress.com, or you can email him to talk about rates and availability at christopher.saylor21 [at] gmail.com. You might also want to check out the book he co-wrote with Marcy, Grammar for Fiction Writers, available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, or Apple iBooks.



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