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A Lesson in Grammar to Help You Not Look Dumb Online

How many times have you come across grammatical mishaps during your leisurely scroll through your social media news feeds? It’s probably more common than you’d like to believe or see. Here’s a quick lesson in the five habitual grammatical errors found online to help you thwart off the grammar police and save yourself from, inadvertently, looking like an idiot online.

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(Photo Credit: Brad Fultz/Flickr)

1. Your vs. You're

This has to be THE most common (and annoying) grammatical error showing its terrible little face everywhere online nowadays. The first trick is to spell it out: “You are” is shortened to “you’re,” while “your” is a possessive pronoun, as in, “This is your bag.” There is nothing really fancy or complicated about it when you break it down. See examples below where “your” and “you’re” are used in the same sentence:

Example: Your skin-tight, flesh-tone bikini makes your butt look really weird when you’re (“you are”) twerking on stage, Miley,” said everyone.

Catch our drift? Good. (But, really, how awful was that outfit at the VMAs?)

We won’t get into technical jargon that will only confuse you more, so just remember that the little apostrophe means that the words “you” and “are” were shortened to “you’re,” because we’re all too lazy to write or type out two words in today’s fast-paced and already too-busy world.

2. Their vs. There vs. They’re

These three buggers are always throwing grammar offenders through a loop, making the grammar police chomp at the bit as they scroll through their social media news feeds. Here’s the skinny on these three tricksters:

Their – This word is what fancy people know as a plural possessive pronoun, which translates into, “Use this when you’re trying to explain that more than one person possesses something.”

Example: “Off with their heads!”

Layman’s translation: The heads of more than one person will be “off-ed.”

There – Two situations where you would use “there” is when referring to a location/place (“I want to go there with you.”) or as a pronoun (“There are too many to choose from.”).

They’re – This word is actually two words (“they” and “are”) contracted to help save everyone those few milliseconds we’re all so desperate to hoard throughout the day. The same concept as “you’re” (in the first example above) applies here, too.

Here’s an example of how all of these can be used together:

“The neighbors over there don’t like cats, and there is a cat on their front lawn pooping. They’re (they are) not going to be happy about that.” 

3. Its vs. It’s

This common grammatical error can happen to the best of us, but for those who don’t have a clue about the difference between the two, pay attention. “Its” is a possessive pronoun and “it’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has”. The easiest way to decipher which one to use is to see if “it is” or “it has” makes sense in your sentence. If it doesn’t make sense, then “its” is the winner winner, chicken dinner.

Correct use of “its”: “The company has its headquarters in Santa Monica.”

Incorrect use of “it’s”: “The company has it’s (“it is”) headquarters in Santa Monica.”

Correct use of “it’s”: “It’s (“it is”) a beautiful day today.”

Incorrect use of “its”: Its a beautiful day today.”

4. Where vs. Were vs. We’re

Where – At, in, or to a location place

Example: “Where are we going?"

Were – Past tense of the plural forms of the verb “to be”

Example: “We were shopping when you called.”

We’reContraction of “we are.”

Example: “We don’t have time for that anymore because we’re (“we are”) mothers now.”

The best way to remember “where” and “were” is by using this sentence as an example because it’s a memorable event and a well-known phrase: Where were you when we called?”

5. Then vs. Than

Easy rules of thumb for these two:

“Than” is used when making comparisons, as in: “This is better than that.”

“Then” is used to indicate time or in a sequence of events, as in: “I woke up and then made coffee.” or “If we go to the gym, then we can go get ice cream.”

Hopefully this cheat sheet of the five most common grammatical errors will help you the next time you get stuck on which word or phrase to use in your sentence. Remember, an apostrophe is used to contract or shorten two words. When in doubt, separate the words and see if the sentence flows.

Share this lesson in grammar with your friends and followers so that you can help end the atrocious grammatical mishaps that litter our social media news feeds and professional correspondence. Class dismissed.

Tell Us What You Think

What other grammatical or spelling offenses do you come across most throughout the day? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments section below.

4 Comments

  1. 4 Jane 27 Sep

    Great points, presented in a very accessible manner. To build on EG's point above, I shudder when I hear "I" being used as the object of a sentence (as in, "He gave my wife and I a gift" - remove "my wife and" from that sentence and see if "I" is still the correct pronoun to use).

    Another pet peeve is the use of apostrophes to pluralize a word...NEVER!!

    Also, the use of the phrase "rule of thumb" needs to be discontinued given its origins and the connotations it carries. Please consider discontinuing its use.

  2. 3 roxanne viggiano 26 Sep

    I agree. "Your" vs "You're" is everywhere and most people don't seem to care even when they're (not there) corrected.

    But one you didn't mention was "Should of" instead of "Should Have." 

     

  3. 2 EG 26 Sep

    Another grammatical error that has become commonplace in the Millennial Generation is the use of different forms of "Me and my friends..." in a sentence. The correct usage would be "my friends and I" or "my friends and me," depending on how it is used in the sentence, but "me" should NEVER be listed first, especially when used as the subject of the sentence. As a hiring manager myself, I cringe when people make this mistake.

     

  4. 1 ria 23 Sep
    thanks for sharing
    it is very nice post.

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