Rob (chiroho) wrote in fandom_grammar,

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Answer: Right, rite, wright, and write

Question: What is the difference between "right", "rite", "wright", and "write"?

Ah yes, homophones. And unusually in this case, we have four words which sound the same but have different meanings. So let’s see what we can do about explaining the difference between them.

Taking the words in alphabetical order means starting with right. Right is an adjective which, according to my Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary, has a dozen different meanings. The ones we’re probably most familiar with are "just", "correct", "suitable", a "moral or legal entitlement", or “on or towards the east side of the human body, or of any object etc., when facing north”. That seems to me like a bit of a complicated way of describing right, but when I thought about it there weren’t exactly a lot of options which readily come to mind, so I guess it does make sense. Regardless, most people understand the meaning of the word, and you probably do too. A couple of examples of usage are:
“Did you get that, Probie? Interrogation is down this corridor, first door on the right.”

Ziva and McGee had to endure a deluge of conceited remarks for the entire afternoon after Gibbs said that Tony’s hunch about their suspect had been right.

"Read him his rights, DiNozzo."
Moving on, we come to rite, which has a completely different meaning. This word is a noun and refers to, as per my Pocket OED again, a “religious or solemn observance, act, or procedure”. So when we describe things such as a “rite of passage” or “burial rites”, this is the word that you should be using.
Tony watched, waiting to begin processing the scene for evidence, as the family priest administered the last rites to the victim.
Our third homophone is wright. A noun like our last word, it means “maker or builder”. However, in modern English, wright is a word we rarely see used on its own because it’s more commonly combined to make words like playwright or shipwright. You can clearly see the meaning when looking at these words, though – ship builder, and maker of plays.
“So, McNovelist, what’s next? Become a playwright like Andrew Lloyd Webber?”
“Firstly, Tony, Andrew Lloyd Webber is not a playwright, he’s a composer. Secondly, I can’t believe you’ve actually heard of him!”
Don’t confuse wright with wight, something that is a malicious, undead creature.

Our last word, write, is a verb which describes what I’ve been doing since I started putting this little article together. The basic meaning has to do with forming letters or words, either singly or in a grouping, onto a piece of paper or some other surface. But write covers a great many things, from forming marks or symbols, to composing a novel, and what a computer does when it commits data to some sort of storage medium.
“You going to write that down, DiNozzo? Or will it remember itself?”

“Gibbs! You always know just when I have something to tell you. Anyway, I discovered that, even though the computer itself was basically destroyed -- bad boy, Timmy -- at least some data had been written to the hard drive, which means we have a lead on what it was our mysterious Ensign had been trying to access!”
So four different words, and four different meanings. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of these homonyms and will be able to use the right word when writing your manifesto of choice, culminating in you being added to the annals of celebrated playwrights, via the most ancient and desired rite of passage: good reviews. =)
Tags: !answer, author:chiroho, language:english dialects, word choice:similar words
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