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Censer vs. Censor vs. Sensor (Grammar Rules)

Let's look at the differences between censer, censor, and sensor with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

For this week's grammar rules post, let's look at a few more homophones: Censer, censor, and sensor. All three words can be used as nouns, but one of them is also commonly used as a verb. While they're pronounced the same, their meanings are nothing alike.

So let's look at the differences between censer, censor, and sensor and when to use each.

Censer vs. Censor vs. Sensor (Grammar Rules)

Censer vs. Censor vs. Sensor

Censer is a noun and refers to a vessel (usually swung on chains) used for burning incense, especially during religious rituals.

Censor can be used as a noun or verb. As a noun, censor refers to a person or group who supervises and/or examines conduct and morals. For instance, the group that decides ratings for movies and TV shows. As a verb, censor refers to the act of inspecting and suppressing or deleting anything that is considered forbidden or objectionable by the censoring party.

(Why You Shouldn't Censor Yourself While Writing.)

Sensor is only used as a noun, and it refers to a device that responds to physical stimulus and transmits a resulting impulse. For instance, there are sensors that respond to sound, and sensors that respond to movement.

Make sense?

Here are a few examples of censer, censor, and sensor:

Correct: The room filled with a pleasant scent as they walked the censer to the front of the room.
Incorrect: The room filled with a pleasant scent as they walked the censor to the front of the room.
Incorrect: The room filled with a pleasant scent as they walked the sensor to the front of the room.

Correct: The author did not understand why they would censor her book.
Incorrect: The author did not understand why they would censer her book.
Incorrect: The author did not understand why they would sensor her book.

Correct: Each time a person walks in front of the sensor, the animatronic turkey starts gobbling.
Incorrect: Each time a person walks in front of the censer, the animatronic turkey starts gobbling.
Incorrect: Each time a person walks in front of the censor, the animatronic turkey starts gobbling.

There is a trick to try for keeping these three homophones straight. The "cense" in incense is in the word censer, which is a vessel for burning it. The "sens" in sensory or sensation is in the word sensor, which uses sensory stimuli to operate. And that leaves us with censor, which can be used as a noun or verb.

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Grammar and Mechanics

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