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.