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Operation bad grammar: the biggest, easiest targets

Monday, July 26, 2010 @ 07:07 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

If the war on bad grammar were fought by the military, we’d start with the biggest, easiest targets.

Despite long  lists and big books devoted to bad grammar, the enemies of clear communication remain at large, everywhere from executive memos to television news crawl to school report cards.

The good news is all you have to do is take aim at these two similar targets  to look instantly smarter.

Neither of these targets can be hit by spell check. Both of them lure in the innocent by sounding just like something they’re not.

Confusing possessives with contractions

Its and it’s
Your and you’re
Their and they’re

If you are writing the possessive form of it, you and they, remember there are no apostrophes, a punctuation mark that should always be approached with extreme caution.

Or ask yourself if you could instead say it is, you are or they are. If you could, then add the apostrophe. If not, leave it out.


Many people mix up words like then (next) and than (compare) or were (past), wear (clothing) or where (adverb).

If you’re even slightly uncertain, check. Here’s a list.

Got that? Words that sound the same or similar are often punctuated or spelled differently, in order to make the distinctions that help us communicate.

Don’t fall for the oral disguise.

Come back tomorrow and we’ll aim for the next two juiciest targets: me, myself and I and that, which and who.

6 Responses to “Operation bad grammar: the biggest, easiest targets”

  1. Zoomit.ca says:

    Operation bad grammar: the biggest, easiest targets « Sticky Communication…

    If the war on bad grammar were fought by the military, they’d start with the biggest, easiest targets….

  2. […] so many people get mixed up with possessives and contractions, as in “its” and “it’s.” More on that here. Cease and desist. […]

  3. […] Don’t get me started on sound-alike pronouns, as in its and it’s, which I dumped on here. […]

  4. […] Forget all those rules you learned at school. Take aim at the big ones that still matter. […]

  5. […] grammar nor spell checking has a problem with its’. This is not a word, despite my campaign to punish people who commit this offence. My online […]

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