Today, there are two pairs of words, and another trio that I've seen as problem areas recently. In some cases, it is a matter of just not knowing the correct usage; in others, it may be simply carelessness or trying to type too fast. To determine which is the case, read on.
I've begun by using the trio in my first paragraph. It is unsettling to some degree, seeing how often the three forms of the words "to, too, and two" are misused. I used to think this was second-grade lesson material--apparently not, in today's educational system.
"To" is used to denote a how, when, where. The "how" useage was in the previous sentence, in beteen the words "used," and "denote." Or, "In order to drive a nail, you need a hammer."
"Too" is used in the sense of 'overmuch' or 'also.' For example: "I used too much milk in the batter, making it runny." Or, "I am going to the park, and I am taking Fido, too." (In that sentence, we also see the 'where' useage of the "to" spelling.)
"Two," of course, designates the spelled-out version of the numeral "2."
And on to the next:
High on the list of errors made with our goofy spelling and origins are "sight" and "site." The first spelling, "sight" refers to your eyes, as in 'eyesight,' or to a beautiful view: "The mountains against the sunset sky were a wonderful sight to behold." Then, there is the sense of a very desireable something seen, as in "Well, aren't you a sight for sore eyes." Granted, this last example might have folks hollering about a particular chain of vision-care outlets, calling itself "A Site for Sore Eyes." That is, my friends, a very clever pun. A pun, of course being a play on words, using one word to substitute for another in an attempt to be cute.
The spelling of "site," means location or area. "The Indian burial site is considered sacred ground." Or, "We have decided on the site for the new restaurant." In the case of the vision-care chain, they are making a play on the 'sight for sore eyes' by substituting "site," thereby informing clients that 'this is the place' if your eyes are causing you problems. Very clever, indeed, but potentially confusing for those who don't have a good grasp of the two spellings--and meanings-- of this pair of homophones.
Finally, I want to take on the pair of "wreak" and "reek." Homophones, once again, but with oh-so-different meanings.
"Reek" means to smell terrible, or have a strong odor. "The locker room reeks of sweaty shoes and dirty clothes." Or, "This onion reeks and is making my eyes water."
Conversly, "wreak" means to do, act upon, or cause, and is most often seen in the sense of "to wreak havoc" upon something: "If the mayor has his way, he is going to wreak havoc upon the city's budget." I do not believe it is possible to 'reek' havoc, unless by use of the previously discussed pun, and the tossing of a stink bomb into the council chambers prior to the mayor's address.
Now this is one of those terrible words whose past tense seems very far removed from the word. The past tense still has the 'wr' beginning, but all similarity ends there. You are not supposed to say, "wreaked," but rather "wrought." It rhymes with 'thought,' or, if you prefer, with "rot." I know there are plenty of folks out there who feel that this language of ours with all its crazy rules and contradictions is a lot of rot. But, it was set in motion long before my day, and it will probably be a very long time before any drastic changes are made to eliminate all of these problems; at which point, you may be sure, it will be an entirely new language, unrecognizable as the English we know today.