Common Errors

You’re/Your

You’re: You’re is a contraction (a combination/shortening) of the words “you” and “are.”  If you use “you’re,” make sure that you could replace it with “you are” and have your sentence still make sense.

“You’re a fantastic person for reading this blog” and “You are a fantastic person for reading this blog” mean the exact same thing.  (And you ARE a fantastic person.)

Your: Your is a possessive for of “you.”  It refers to something that a person has (“Your hat”).

Ur: This is never acceptable.  I would say it’s okay in text messages, but even that’s stretching it. Regardless, never use this in proper writing, or even in emails. When a professor sees “ur” in a paper, his only response will be, “Ur not going to pass my class.”

Two/Too/To

Two: Two is a number.  It looks like this: 2.  See Sesame Street for a more elaborate exploration of the number two.

Too: Too means the same as also.  It can also mean excessively, as in, “Whoa, there: bringing Sesame Street into this mess is too much.”

To: If it isn’t “two” or “too,” it’s probably “to.”  “To” starts prepositional phrases (“I went to the park“) and infinitive phrases (“I want to leave the park now, because it is after dusk, and we are breaking the law”).

They’re/There/Their

They’re: They’re is a contraction (a shortening) of they and are.  Only use they’re if you could use they are in its place and it would still make sense. ONLY.

There: There either refers to a place (“I live over there, in the dumpster”), or it pairs with some form of the verb to be (such as is, am, were, etc.) to introduce an idea (“There is plenty of room for me in the dumpster”).

Their: Their is a possessive adjective.  It shows that something belongs to a group of people (“them”).  For example: The government said that it was their dumpster, so I couldn’t live in it anymore.

If your sentence deals with any sort of possession or ownership, the word you need is their.

Affect/Effect

In general, affect is the verb and effect is the noun.  Affect refers to when something influences something else.  For example: “No matter what you say, you cannot affect my decision.  You’re just a puppet.”

Effect is the noun.  When you affect something, you have an effect on it.  For example: “Unfortunately, even though I was the one controlling him, the puppet did have an effect on my decision.”

There’s a bit more, however.  Pronounced in a few different ways, affect and effect both have other, more minor meanings.  Since the ones before are most common (and most often mixed up), I’ll just provide you with a link to a helpful page that gets into a few more meanings (if you’re curious).

Regardless/Irregardless

Regardless is a word that means without regard to warnings, advice, heeding, etc.

Irregardless is not a word.

I’m sorry, did you miss that? Irrespective of how much it sounds like a real word, regardless of the fact that you want it to be a word, irregardless is. not. a. word.  And until we find a missing Shakespearean sonnet that uses it, or until Sarah Palin tweets it, it never will be.

It’s/Its

It’s is a contraction of the words it and is.  If you mean to say “it is,” you may substitute it’s.

Its is possessive.  This means that something belongs to the it.

Example: The Cat Monster’s love for steroid-laced cat food is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness.


11 Responses to “Common Errors”

  1. Michelle Sobon July 18, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    what about laid, lied, lei’ed, and such variations? I just can’t keep that darn layin around straight! Thanks Riane! You’re not only my grammar warrior but my paper writing warrior!

  2. Rickey Duckett October 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

    I just want to tell you that I am new to blogging and definitely loved you’re blog site. More than likely I’m likely to bookmark your site . You really have impressive writings. Appreciate it for revealing your blog.

  3. limebirdbeth October 24, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    This is so useful. It’s shocking how many people just don’t know these simple rules. Made me smile as well, so great blog! Keep up the good work.

  4. Jeffry Wassenberg November 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    I love your writing style truly enjoying this internet site .

  5. Andrew Schoellkopf November 7, 2011 at 11:18 am #

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  7. Gonzo November 10, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    Yes, please, a detailed post on the correct use of the past tenses of “lie” and “lay.” Native speakers give me that horrified look when I, a humble immigrant, explain it to them…

  8. Angelica November 20, 2011 at 4:14 am #

    Excellent web site! I like how the article was written. Helpful but succinct.

  9. Tom Alpheaus November 25, 2011 at 9:49 am #

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  10. Urlaub in Dänemark January 30, 2012 at 2:49 am #

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  11. Erin January 11, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    What about use/used?

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