As an editor, I fix tons of homophones in manuscripts. So, I thought I'd feature some commonly misused homophones for the next couple of weeks.
Today, I'll discuss reign, rein, and rain.
Royal rule or authority (noun) or to possess or exercise sovereign power or authority (verb). So, if it's about royalty, it's reign.
The usual spelling of the phrase meaning freedom to do as one pleases is free rein, not free reign. The latter is a common misspelling, and it almost makes sense given reign's meaning (i.e., the exercise of sovereign power). But free rein, an allusion to horseback riding, is the original form, and it is much more common in published texts. The OED lists instances of its use from as long ago as the 17th century.
This is the easy one, right? Rain is weather... the water that comes down from the sky.
And for real fun...
reign of terror -- think ruling of terror
rained terror -- think rained water, so rained terror (like terror is coming down)
A king can rain terror that causes a reign of terror.
Grammar is never boring!
Is there an editing/grammar issue that's always caused you trouble? If so, share it in the comments so I can feature it in a future post.
Definitions from Dictionary.com