This week's grammar rules post looks at two words that sound as if they're on equal footing, but they both have very different meanings. One means to see, while the other may be built by the sea.
So let's look at the differences between peer and pier and when to use each.
Peer vs. Pier
Peer is most frequently used as a noun or verb. As a noun, a peer is a person of equal standing with another, especially in terms of social circles, grade levels, experience, and so on. As a verb, peer refers to the act of looking at something.
Pier, on the other hand, is a noun that refers most frequently to a structure that extends into navigable water that is used for docking watercraft, as a promenade, and/or to protect or form a harbor. A pier can also refer to the support for adjacent ends of two bridge spans, as well as a structural mount.
Here are a few examples of peer and pier:
Correct: What do you see when you peer into the darkness?
Incorrect: What do you see when you pier into the darkness?
Correct: As the most loved teacher at her school, Laura had no peer.
Incorrect: As the most loved teacher at her school, Laura had no pier.
Correct: We watched the boats from the pier.
Incorrect: We watched the boats from the peer.
As you may have already surmised, your peer could peer at a pier, but how do you remember which of these homophones to use in the correct situation? For peer as a verb, I think of the word see, which has two e's, the same as peer. For peer as a noun, I think of equals, like the two e's in peer. Then, I think of the two vowels in sea as a hint that I should use pier, which also uses two vowels, when talking about the structure that's in water.
No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.