Home in and hone are easily confused because they sound similar when we say them aloud. But fear not, there are a few easy tricks for you to remember whether you want to use home in or hone. So let’s home in on the difference! See what I did there?
Understanding Home In
Home in means the same thing as zero in. If you are homing in on something, you are focusing on it, or aiming all of your attention at it.
The phrase home in comes from the homing pigeon, which was used to deliver communication before the invention of the telephone. A homing pigeon has the ability to zero in on an exact location after traveling a very long distance. So when you think of the phrase home in, you can think of a pigeon aiming itself toward an exact location.
Examples of Home In
Elmer Fudd homed in on his target of that wascaly wabbit, Bugs Bunny.
The golden retriever homed in on the T-bone steak.
After debating for an entire hour, we began to home in on our determination for the best ’80s hair band.
In all of these sentences above, we could replace the words home in with the words zero in and they would still make sense.
Honing something means you are sharpening something. This may be a physical object, such as a knife, or an intangible thing, such as your skills.
An important thing to note here is that you don’t really hone in on anything. If you hear or see the phrase hone in this is typically a mistake and the correct phrase is home in.
Some sources hypothesize that people have migrated toward saying hone in because the double n consonants make it easier to say than home in. Nevertheless, the ease of saying it does not make it correct. This makes the phrase hone in what we call an “eggcorn,” an English phrase that is misused frequently enough that we commonly understand its meaning. Other examples of eggcorns are upmost (rather than utmost), suppose to (rather than supposed to), gambit (rather than gamut), and irregardless (rather than regardless).
The word hone comes from the Old English word han, which means stone. It refers to a stone that you would use to sharpen a sword or knife.
Examples of Hone
You can win the hotdog-eating contest if you start to hone your chewing and swallowing skills now.
I honed my magic skills by turning my brother into a newt.
Samantha is honing the blade of her knife before she goes hunting for unicorns.
In all of the sentences above, we could replace the word hone with the word sharpen and they would still make sense.
Trick To Remember Home In or Hone
Generally speaking, if the word you want to use is followed by the words in on, the correct word is home. Otherwise, the word you want to use is hone. Again, you can’t really hone in on anything.
Home in means to focus in on.
Hone means to sharpen.
Susan is an English educator, editor, and writer who has enjoyed working within these fields since 2004. Her experience includes teaching at the high school and adult continuing education levels, and writing and editing for multiple regional publications, including Wrightsville Beach Magazine and Encore Magazine. Today she is a copywriter and editor for CastleBranch Inc., as well as editor in chief for the company’s internal e-magazine. A Southern transplant who moved from Ohio to North Carolina, she has embraced the word “y’all” and can tell you how she likes her grits. Check out her official website.