Writing Tip 131: Hone vs. Home

Okay, sure, the ornithologists in the crowd might call me out on the fact that this is not a picture of a homing pigeon.

Okay, sure, the ornithologists in the crowd might call me out on the fact that this is not a picture of a homing pigeon.

Anyone else always call the carrier birds used as little avian messengers “honing pigeons”? No? Me neither. That would be silly.

Why would it be silly? Because while “hone” and “home” are commonly confused, they are two distinct words.

  • Hone – (verb) to sharpen, perfect, or make more acute.
  • Home – (verb) to aim toward a destination with accuracy.

You can hone a skill. A falcon might home in on its prey. One could hone a knife before whittling. A missile might home in on a target.

You shouldn’t ever “hone in on something.” There’s an implied target there, so “home” is the correct word you’re looking for. Pigeons or no pigeons.