I have tried to simplify the differences between words with the same spelling and/or the same pronunciation and/or the same meaning here:
This diagram is inspired and adapted from one here.
You can see that we have three elements to consider: meaning, pronunciation and spelling. Sometimes they overlap, sometimes they don't. If we have two words that are exactly the same in meaning, pronunciation and spelling, then they are just two identical words. If the three elements are all different, then of course they are completely separate words. But you will see from the diagram that there are six other alternatives.
When spelling we have to watch out for:
- homophones: make sure you have the right spelling for the meaning you want to convey. These are probably the trickiest types of words and spell checkers can't help you with these;
- alternative spellings - there are a few words that have two possible spellings- I guess that's good news really - if you don't know how to spell one, spell the other! And some of these differences are between US and UK English, eg colour and color;
- homographs: remember sometimes one spelling can have two different pronunciations and meanings - try not to get confused by this;
- alternative pronunciations - again don't be misled by the differences in pronunciation, the spelling of these doesn't change.
Meanwhile a challenge for you:
How many words that are homophones can you find in this posting (NOT including the diagram)? For example, I (eye).
Write them in the comments below.