Hone In or Home In?
- On March 18, 2014
Two of the four sentences below are correct. Which are they?
a) Searchers homed in on new target areas.
b) She creates Tweets that hone in on a specific point.
c) The company homed in on the California prospect for its promising experimental drug.
d) I remember the day I honed in on you.
Sentences a and c are correct; sentences b and d are incorrect. To hone means to sharpen, as in “I honed my presentation skills to prepare for the sales job.” To home in on something means to zero in on it.
Years ago, when briefing a boss on a program for a client, I described how we were going to hone in on one audience and then in phase two hone in on another.
“Nancy,” she interrupted me.
My heart sank at the prospect of having to develop a new strategy.
“It’s home in, not hone in. You’re too smart not to know that.”
The strategy was fine.
Some style commentators say hone in has become an acceptable alternative to home in. But I advise sticking with home in when you mean zero in and reserving hone for sharpen. This is still standard usage. Plus, you want your audience to focus on your message and not question your word choice.