Right, Rite, Wright, and Write

Commonly Confused Words

right and write
The boy writes with his right hand. JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

The four homophones right, rite, wright, and write have very different meanings and uses.

Definitions

The noun rite refers to a formal ceremony or religious practice (such as "the rite of baptism").

A more common word is right, which can be a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. Right has various meanings, including correct, fitting, and direct ("the right answer," "turn right," "the woman on the right").

The noun wright refers to a person who builds, creates, or repairs something (as in playwright).

The verb write means to mark, form letters, or compose.

Examples

  • "Perhaps it is better to be irresponsible and right, than to be responsible and wrong."
    (Winston Churchill)
  • "He drove very slowly, following his tracks, and the ranch entrance appeared on the right, although the gate was gone and the sign down."
    (Annie Proulx, "The Half-Skinned Steer." The Atlantic Monthly, 1998)
  • "Classic school rituals and events contribute to the high school's role as a four-year rite of passage experience, although they are rarely connected to academics."
    (Lynn M. Hoffman, "Adolescent Rites of Passage." Contemporary Youth Culture, ed. by Shirley R. Steinberg et al. Greenwood Press, 2006)
  • "In 1798, Josiah Fox, a 30-year-old shipbuilder emigrated from England, and the records show that he brought copies of the then current reference texts for building ships with him. He had learned the trade, apprenticed to a master shipwright at the Plymouth Dockyard."
    (Dan Bamford, Freshwater Heritage. Natural Heritage Books, 2007)
  • "He could not sleep at night and sat at his desk with a wet towel on his head, still attempting to write his lecture. He wrote reams on a treadmill; it came out nothing."
    (Bernard Malamud, "The German Refugee." The Saturday Evening Post, 1964) 

Idiom and Slang Alerts

  • The expression in the right means legally or morally correct.
    "This had been her last battle with her husband, and she had lost, though she knew she was in the right."
    (Herman Hesse, "Walter Kompff," 1908. Stories of Five Decades, trans. by Ralph Manheim. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972)
  • The expression hang a right means to turn right (as when driving a car).
    "He'd gone south to Grand, west to Crosby, north back to Prince, east to Elizabeth, south to Kenmare, then east, continuing along Delancey, then, when he got to Orchard, decided to hang a right. It was a beautiful street."
    (Linwood Barclay, Trust Your Eyes. New American Library, 2012)
     

Comic Observations: "Write Written Right"

Write we know is written right,
When we see it written write;
But when we see it written wright,
We know it is not written right:
For write, to have it written right,
Must not be written right or wright,
Nor yet should it be written rite;
But write, for so 'tis written right.
(Gleanings From the Harvest Fields of Literature, Science and Art: A Melange of Excerpta, Curious, Humorous, and Instructive, 2nd ed., collated by Charles C. Bombaugh. T. Newton Kurtz, 1860)

Practice

(a) The bear looked _____ at me and then slowly walked away.

(b) The _____ of passage was a three-day ritual to welcome young people of the village to the world of adulthood.

(c) Ashley made up her mind _____ then and there to go back to school.

(d) "History will be kind to me for I intend to _____ it."
(Winston Churchill)

(e) The only _____ thing to do was to go back home and apologize.

Answers to Practice Exercises: Right, Rite, Wright, and Write

(a) The bear looked right at me and then slowly walked away.

(b) The rite of passage was a three-day ritual to welcome young people of the village to the world of adulthood.

(c) Merdine made up her mind right then and there to go back to school.

(d) "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." (Winston Churchill)

(e) The only right thing to do was to go back home and apologize.

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Right, Rite, Wright, and Write." ThoughtCo, Apr. 9, 2018, thoughtco.com/right-rite-wright-and-write-1689483. Nordquist, Richard. (2018, April 9). Right, Rite, Wright, and Write. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/right-rite-wright-and-write-1689483 Nordquist, Richard. "Right, Rite, Wright, and Write." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/right-rite-wright-and-write-1689483 (accessed May 22, 2018).