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Home in or Hone in?

Categories: Brian Klems' The Writer's Dig Tags: Brian Klems, grammar, online editor blog.

Q: My niece is always misusing the word “hone” when she should be using “home.” I know the difference, but have a tough time explaining it to her. Can you explain this rule for us? —Carol M.

No problem at all, Carol. This is a mistake people make all the time. Often people misuse the word “hone” by placing it in sentences where it doesn’t belong, but it’s a simple confusion that can be cleared up by understanding its definition.

The verb “hone” means “to sharpen or make more acute,” as in honing a talent. Alfred honed his negotiation skills to buy a new car at a very reasonable price. I hone my abs by doing 100 sit-ups a day.Generally, people drop it into sentences where they should use “home.”

In verb form, “home” (as in “to home in on”) means “to move or be aimed toward a destination or target with great accuracy.” Missiles home in on targets. The leftfielder homed in on the fly ball. “Forget about the abs!” I said as I homed in on a mouth-watering candy bar.

As a simple rule of thumb, if you write the sentence and need the phrase “in on” after the verb, it’s most likely “home.” If not, you probably need to use “hone.”

Follow me on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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4 Responses to Home in or Hone in?

  1. laurenruiz05 says:

    Because of “hone”s definition, years ago, I used to think “hone in” was correct and never questioned.

    Great simple article on this matter. I posted it on Twitter.

    Lauren I. Ruiz
    Proofreader, Editor

  2. Melanie says:

    I could be wrong but I always considered to hone a verb, an action sharpen. : ; watch me as I hone my skills (well, I do hope I will hone my skills..).

    To home in on something brings to my mind the bee homing in on his beehive, smelling around for the way home.

    I will be following you Mr. Brian, you have a lot of information I need to brush up on!

  3. pslein says:

    Can you use the proper names of sports teams such as Chicago Bears or Green Bay Packers with fictional characters?

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