1. A principle is something you believe in. A principal is a pal at your school.
2. Desert (arid land) only has one S, but dessert (after-dinner sweets) has two because I like it so much.
3. Conscience ends in the word science and conscious ends in the word scious. Goddamn it, these are hard.
4. Bare and bear have the same letters. But when spelling bear, the E comes before the A. Just think of my stepdad Dean, who was fatally mauled by a grizzly during our inaugural (and final) father-son bonding camping trip.
5. A few means not many, but phew with a PH is an expression of relief. It’s also what I said when your website agreed to pay me $15 to break down a mere 20 piddling homonyms (also: “Wow, really?” and “Suckers!”).
6. Exercise has an ER, as in “Elliptical, running!” Exorcise has an OR, as in, “Oh
7. An affect is an influence or cause (like finding out about my now ex-wife Sharon’s affair) and an effect is a result (like me entering a mid-life crisis and buying tickets to Burning Man).
8. Facts with a TS refers to true statements, but fax like the machine has an X. Which reminds me of when I took ecstasy at Burning Man! Not really a good memory: I was asked to leave when, under the erroneous belief that I was a magnificent mother blue jay, I mistook a nice young lady’s flower crown for my baby’s nest.
9. Kernel the seed has a K (think kernel of knowledge), but colonel has… honestly, just try not to spell the world colonel.
10. Clause with a U is a part of a sentence or legal document, but animal claws don’t have a U – just like that grizzly’s claws didn’t have any mercy for poor Dean’s battered torso.
11. Resume means to begin again, but your professional résumé has two fancy accents, just like Sharon’s asshole new boyfriend Sven (who, on top of being Swiss, has developed a thick provincial dialect from working at a steel mill in Buffalo).
12. Bow means to bend at the waist, but bough like a tree branch has a UGH, which is what I said about halfway through this list when I realized I had made an unwise guarantee of homonyms.
13. William Hurt is the guy from Broadcast News who kind of looks like he’d be a dick in real life. John Hurt is the creepy British actor who had the alien burst out of his chest in the original Alien. John Heard is the harmless one who played the dad in Home Alone.
14. The tired, sad man mustered his energy and relished the opportunity to eat his hot dog dinner with mustard and relish. Is that even helpful? It’s what I’ve done every night for the past nine months.
15. Remember: mule, like the animal, starts with MU. But you can’t spell mewl, as in a pathetic whimper, without starting with ME!
16. E comes before U. Therefore you must earn enough money in your lifetime (like, say, by working a thankless desk job while spending your weekends freelancing articles to some obscure grammar website) to afford an urn so that you may finally drop dead and get some freaking peace. Just kidding about the website, guys. Great stuff. Just send me like $12 and we’ll call it even.