People sometimes think they can use "home in on" and "hone in on" interchangeably, but the truth is much more gray. Let’s first look at the dictionary’s definitions of each.
Home as a verb means "to move to or toward an objective by following a signal or landmark—usually used with on or in".
A few good examples will help:
- The pigeon homed in on the Tower where it kept its nest.
- The missile homed in on its target.
- After months of research, Alexa homed in on the answer to the problem.
Think of using home the way a homing pigeon works.
Hone is a verb used particularly to mean "to sharpen or smooth with a whetstone" or "to make more accurate, intense, or effective". Rarely is hone used with in or on. Let’s see it in action:
- She honed her communication skills before the job interview.
- Before the hunt, Max honed his knife blade to a razor-edge sharpness.
- I’m hoping to hone my abs by doing 100 sit-ups every day.
Think of how hone rhymes with stone as in a whetstone that sharpens blades.
The quick and dirty
Writer’s Digest explained it perfectly and simply:
"As a simple rule of thumb, if you write the sentence and need to use the phrase 'in on' after the verb, it’s most likely 'home.' If not, you probably need to use 'hone.'"