March 25, 2015

Reign, Rein, and Rain : Grammar & Editing Tips
Last week, I posted about Homophone and Contractions. Homophones are words that sound alike (can be spelled alike or not) but have different meanings. 

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. 

A leather strap, fastened to each end of the bit of bridle, by which the rider or driver 
controls a horse or other animal by pulling so as to exert pressure on the bit (noun) or 
to check or guide by exerting pressure on bridle bit by means of the reins / to curb, restrain, or control (verb).

I like to think of reindeer to remember this one. Pulling or device to pull = rein. Even if you want to hold back a person, it's rein in. 

A tricky one is free rein. I found an excellent description of why it's rein and not reign in this instance (from Grammarist). From their website:
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 ridingis 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

1 comment:

Jo Michaels said...

I also have run across a lot of issues lately where two words should be one or one word should be two and they mean completely different things. What a PITA! :)

Great post, hon! WRITE ON!