The Write Stuff: At Least Get These Right

Illustration by Kwang Choi

Before anyone will take you seriously, whether you are a writer or not, there are a few words you need to use correctly. I don’t care if it’s for a job application or you are texting, writing statuses, or sending emails; getting these words wrong will make people judge your intelligence. I’m not kidding.

If you get them wrong on a work or college application/cover letter, I guarantee your application will land in the trash can.

Truthfully, I know girls who have stopped dating boys who couldn’t use them correctly in text messages.

My main goal here is to help those of you who are clueless as to why you never get the interview and/or that second date, and to stop the rest of us from cringing when you use them incorrectly.

Use these helpful hints to correct these unacceptable errors:

You’re and your

Using you’re correctly:

You’re is a contraction of the pronoun you and the verb are. Always remove the contraction in your mind before you use it to make sure it’s the correct word.

You’re awesome! vs. Your awesome!

Do you want to say “You are awesome!”? Or, are you stopping short of making sense with “Your awesome”? The latter is a fragment; it doesn’t have a predicate, so it isn’t a complete thought. Unless, you wanted to complete your thought with “Your awesome . . . mother was my teacher”? (Something my daughters often hear :))

Removing the contraction in your mind will help you correct this and other unacceptable errors before you make them.

Using your correctly:

Your is a possessive pronoun. Your can never start a sentence unless it is followed by a noun because your has to show possession of something.

Your house is beautiful.

Your is showing possession of the house, which is a noun. If you say, “You are house is beautiful” it makes no sense whatsoever. That’s how you know you are using the correct your.

Thankfully, we were picked up by your mother.

Your is showing possession of mother, which is also a noun. “We were picked up by you are mother” makes no sense, so your is the correct word.

Incorrect use of your:

Your welcome.

Your is not showing possession of welcome in this sentence (unless you mean that you have your very own “welcome”–the proud owner of “welcome” :)). Since I’m positive that isn’t the case, you need to write

You’re welcome.

This is the correct way to write this statement.  “You are welcome” makes sense, that’s how you know you should use the contraction you’re.

If you are texting, it is acceptable to write

U r welcome.

That way, people will know you know the difference between your and you’re.

There, their, and they’re

There has multiple meanings, but it is most commonly used in one of two ways. First, there is used as an adverb pointing out a place or point. Notice the word here in the word there. Both words are adverbs, pointing out a place or point.

Using the adverb there correctly:

Place it there, please.           I needed to stop there before I said too much.

Using the pronoun there correctly:

Second, there can be used as a pronoun, replacing a noun.

There is no reason to make this mistake.      California? I’m from there, too!

Using their correctly:

Their is a plural possessive pronoun. Just like your, their needs to be followed by a noun. A good way to remember the proper use of this word is that there is an i in the word their, therefore, it needs to refer to people.

Their classroom is located in the portable.

Their is referring to multiple people owning the classroom.

Using they’re correctly:

They’re is a contraction of they are. Substitute they are for any instance you want to use there or their to make sure you are using the correct one.

They’re coming to the party with us.

What this sentence is saying is “They are coming with us.” Once again, if you are texting, it is acceptable to write

They r coming with us.

If it is out of laziness that you are not using these words correctly, the judgment will still be the same. Trust me.

To, too, and two

Using to correctly:

To can be used as a preposition or part of the infinitive, coming before a verb.

I went to the park.      He needs to listen before he can understand.

“To the park” is a prepositional phrase. “To listen” is an infinitive. These examples are the only ways to use the one “o” to.

Using too correctly:

Too is an adverb that means also or beyond. Think of too as a word that shows what it means because the extra o goes beyond what is necessary.

I want to go too.         She is too pretty.

Using two correctly:

Two is a noun. It is the number that comes after one and before three.

I have two of them; she has three.

Two can also be used as an adjective, modifying a noun.

I have two daughters and one son.

In texting, it is acceptable to use 2 for the number two, but, unless you are sending a tweet and have gone over the accepted characters, do not substitute 2 for to or too.

It’s and its

Using it’s correctly

It’s is a contraction for it is or it has. Once again, remove the contraction in your head so you know which word to use.

It’s cold outside. vs. Its cold outside.

“It is cold outside” is what this sentence needs to say; therefore, the contraction is the appropriate choice.

It’s been cold all week.

“It has been cold all week” is the other way to use this contraction.

Using its correctly

Its is a possessive pronoun. You use it when a thing is showing possession.

The bird broke its wing.     The house is white, but its door is red.

Notice we can apply the same test here to see if we need the contraction or the possessive form. “The bird broke it is wing” makes no sense; therefore, the possessive pronoun, without the apostrophe is the correct choice.

I have also heard that some people have been taught that there is a third itsits’. An apostrophe after an already possessive pronoun is incorrect. There is no such construction, and I have no idea what that would even mean. Don’t use it!

There it is. The top four ridiculous errors people are making in their formal and informal writing. You must at least get these unacceptable errors right if you want to be taken seriously.

I can’t guarantee that you will get that interview or keep that boyfriend or girlfriend if you start using these correctly, but the odds definitely get better 🙂

The Write Stuff Blog

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2 Responses to The Write Stuff: At Least Get These Right

  1. Jessie says:

    This is so true. Sometimes grammar and spelling can be difficult to master but these are the basics. I think the mistake that bothers me the most, and it happens ALL OF THE TIME, is when people confuse “then” and “than.”

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