Home in or Hone in?

Before you go correcting someone's use of home in or hone in, be sure you know the definitions of the two so you get it grammatically correct.
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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.

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A: 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.”

Home in or Hone in?

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.”

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