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Blogging Grammar: There, Their, They’re

Blogging GrammarThank you for the positive response to the Blogging Grammar series. I’ve received a number of private emails not only thanking me for simple, step-by-step advice, but asking for specific tutorials. I have lots of recommendations now and I’ll try to get to each of them.

One of the most common grammar errors involves heterographs — words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings. The your, you’re, yore combination is one problematic example. Other examples include:

newknew
pollpole
rollrole
coursecoarse
sellcell
bearbare
bandbanned
bowbeau
pastpassed
I'llisleaisle
totootwo

Usually this is just a case of laziness. The words sound the same, but their meanings are generally very distinct. Learning the meanings of those words will generally solve any confusion. Still, there are a handful of combinations that trip people up over and over again. We’ll address one of the most common today.

Today’s lesson: whether to use there, their, or they’re.

The there, their, they’re dilemma is another one that’s easy to fix. The easiest of the three is they’re. A contraction for “they are,” simply take our your instance of the trouble word and replace it with “they are.” If it fits, then they’re is the correct choice. If not, one of the other two is needed.

This is a movie [there, their, they’re] very fond of.

This is a movie they are very fond of.

They are fits, so the correct word is they’re.

We went to [there, their, they’re] house for dinner.

We went to they are house for dinner.

Nope. One of the other two must fit. Which one? The next easy step is to test for possession. Their is a possessive pronoun (used as an attributive adjective, if you care). So try replacing the problem word with a possessive noun. Those are generally easy to hear. If it works, their is the word to use.

We went to [there, their, they’re] house for dinner.

We went to Sally’s house for dinner.

Works! So their is the word for this sentence.

[There, Their, They’re] is a large cake on the table.

They are a large cake on the table.

Nope.

Sally’s is a large cake on the table.

Nope, again. So the only remaining choice it there.

There is a large cake on the table.

Right on.

Taking a few minutes to make sure you use the correct words goes a long way to making your blog look professional. You’ll still make mistakes — we all do — and that shouldn’t keep you from posting. But putting your best foot forward makes your posts more readable and enjoyable to your site visitors.

Now, I’ll read through this post again before clicking the submit button!

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • gdb February 1, 2011, 5:42 pm

    Simplicity is the key. Get it right fist time ant they will come!

  • Delena Silverfox February 1, 2011, 6:12 pm

    Thank you! A thousand times thank you! A pet peeve of mine is when so many people get common words wrong. I can understand the occasional blip as someone either forgets or is just writing too fast, but all the time? Oi!

    Although I kind of enjoy the thought of Sally being a cake on the table…
    Delena
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  • Katie from Newark Flights February 2, 2011, 9:30 am

    Hello there. It’s the first time I’ve read a post about grammar issues in blogs, and I think you’ve explained the solution to these problems very clearly. I do think many of these mis-typings (if you can call them that too) are the result of the language being not the native one people use when they write the posts. That is basically the background of so many grammar mistakes. Am I right?

  • Sabrina February 3, 2011, 11:21 pm

    Thanks for the post. The funny thing is that I have no problem finding errors when proofreading for others. However, I am always missing mistakes in my own work.
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  • Alison Moore Smith February 4, 2011, 1:34 pm

    Sabrina, you and me both. Or is that you and I? 🙂

  • Kaimo turizmas February 8, 2011, 1:44 pm

    Me too!!! 😀

  • Brad Harmon February 12, 2011, 11:06 pm

    Interesting series, Alison. I didn’t know that these were called heterographs. You taught me a new word today.

    I find that this set really trips me up during when I write posts, and it’s likely the grammatical error that’ll slip through when I publish a post. I know the difference. I’m diligent in my attempts to catch this error. Yet, somehow, my brain keeps missing it. It can be quite frustrating, can’t it?

    Thanks again for bringing heterographs to the forefront of our minds. Hopefully, it will mean less errors in the near future.
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  • Alison Moore Smith February 13, 2011, 12:09 am

    Hi, Brad, thanks for dropping by. Yes, I make the mistake, too. And usually it’s on comments and I notice it just as I click the submit button. Ack.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 13, 2011, 11:31 am

    Delena, thanks for commenting. It pays to be conscientious. Of course, I’m just waiting to make a big grammatical error in the middle of one of the grammar posts. 🙂

  • Alison Moore Smith February 15, 2011, 1:28 pm

    Katie, I agree that lots of blogging mistakes are language barrier issues. However, I find that the ones I’m writing about are more problematic with native English speakers. It would be interesting to see if I can gather some problems common to non-native speakers but, as I’ve said before, I think they often know English grammar rules better than the rest of us!

    Thanks for your comment.

  • steven papas February 17, 2011, 5:12 pm

    well-done Alison, bloggers seem to not paying attention to grammar errors and wrong dictation, which is more obvious in their comments. A well structured written speech with zero misspells is always more effective.
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  • Alison Moore Smith February 18, 2011, 6:54 pm

    steven, it does present a much more professional image, doesn’t it? Thanks for stopping by.

  • Clark Hetherington March 16, 2011, 3:37 am

    I can relate to this article! I myself commits mistake in my grammar when commenting. I knew that this will not do good to my site especially to my backlink because visitors may not likely revisit my site again. Despite to that, I still commit errors in my grammar. Lessoned learned: double check your article for possible wrong grammars and spelling before posting them online.
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  • kavita April 5, 2011, 1:19 pm

    very helpful and informative post.Grammatical errors are what i done usually.
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  • redacteur web May 28, 2011, 10:05 am

    Some bloggers don’t pay attention to the spelling or the grammar mistakes. But, error-free writing is very important. It helps to catch the attention of your readers and getting their respect.
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  • Tim June 12, 2011, 9:37 am

    Right on! I’m pretty forgiving about dodgy grammar if your first language is not English; that’s fair enough. Otherwise, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect someone who writes, presumably in order to be read, to know the difference between “its” and “it’s”. If you don’t understand the rules, take a little time to learn them, as you might when you learn to use wordpress, write html, or attempt SEO. Or maybe I’m becoming an old fart, that’s a possibility, too…
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  • Alison Moore Smith June 13, 2011, 12:10 pm

    Tim, I agree. I will add that I frequent a few blogs of non-native speakers. Some have such poor grammar that it is literally impossible to decipher what they are trying to say. I understand the difficulty. I’ve tried to learn other languages and lets’s just say it’s not my forte! But if you’re going to blog in English, you really do need to learn English.

  • Jason Mitchev June 29, 2011, 6:40 pm

    Thank you, thank you! I’m forever seeing the incorrect works. If it happens once or twice, I’ll usually chalk it up to a typo—I’ve done it myself, especially when I’m tired. But if it’s continual, it can become incredibly frustrating.
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  • Jason Mitchev June 29, 2011, 6:43 pm

    Man! Case in point! That should say, “incorrect words”. Apologies…

  • Mircho July 15, 2011, 2:08 am

    handful of combinations that trip people up over and over again. We’ll address one of the most common today. nice really nice.., I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect someone who writes, presumably in order to be read, to know the difference between “its” and “it’s”. If you don’t understand the rules, take a little time to learn them, as you might when you learn to use wordpress, write html, or attempt SEO. Or maybe I’m becoming an old fart, that’s a possibility, too…

  • Barry Wheeler August 26, 2011, 5:52 am

    There’s nothing more distracting than poor grammer and poor spelling. We all make mistakes, but these are fundamentals! Take time, proof your work … it’s the least you can do for your readers!

  • Ted September 5, 2011, 8:10 pm

    Alison,

    I am kind of picky about grammar too. It drives me nuts to see someone using poor grammar repeatedly. I am afraid that if I read poor grammar too much that some of it is going to rub off on me and seep into my own writing.

    I write most of my posts using Microsoft Word. Have you ever noticed that sometimes Word will automatically correct your writing as you type? I hate that. I have caught the program numerous times when it changed a word that I had typed and actually inserted letters that don’t belong. I don’t understand how it does it or I would turn it off. It is totally frustrating when you have to correct a problem that the software generated.

    Another thing about poor grammar: I delete comments when the grammar is poor. The way that I see it is that if it bothers me when I read them, then it probably also bothers some of my readers when they read them.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 12, 2011, 1:32 pm

    Hi, Ted. Thanks for stopping by.

    Word does have auto correct, but you can turn it off if you don’t like it. 🙂 What bugs me no end is the autocorrect in texting on my iPhone. I send some of the most unintelligible messages when I don’t catch it!

  • Tim Ryan September 25, 2011, 9:36 pm

    I did commit the mistake of mixing up they’re and their in the past. Now, I made a habit of voicing out the words whenever I use an apostrophe. This way if I intend to use ‘they are’, I wouldn’t confuse it with their. It works for me. Saves time in proofreading as well.

  • Arjun Rai November 28, 2011, 6:31 am

    These are the regular mistake which can be happen by any one but thanks for correcting these.
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