They’re’s a problem with are grammar

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DictionaryAlright folks, I know using Twitter and email is all about speed and brevity, but their are sum things that our simply inexcusable for communications professionals.

Before getting into it, a few notes.

  1. I’m not perfect, I may not know an Oxford comma from an Oxford shirt, but there are some basics
  2. We’re professional communicators!  Being able to communicate at a minimum threshold of competence is one of the essential tools in our toolbox.
  3. Typos happen.  They’re forgivable.  But when I see you’ve used the wrong form of a word I know it’s not a typo.  Either you don’t know the difference, you don’t care enough to take 10 seconds to reread your 140 characters (which should be unnecessary), or … you’re drunk.
  4. Caveat to #3 — If you’re employed and have good job security you can slip occasionally.  If you’re among the hundreds looking for a job, take the extra effort to get it write right.  Even if it means using two tweets, dropping the person an email, or changing what you were going to say.  It’s worth it — there are people out there looking for candidates without officially opening up a job posting.  Impress them with your content and form and maybe something will happen.  Turn them off to you right away and it’ll be hopeless.

So…my short list of top grammatical pet peeves.  These are also those that will give away that your error is not a mistake, but rather an indication of sum some deeper problem.  This is really a very low threshold.  Let’s see if we can make it over.

Right/Write

  • Right: Indicates direction or ‘proper/correct’ behavior.  Direction:Look at your computer keyboard (assuming it’s a standard QWERTY keyboard).  The “P” — that’s on the right side of your keyboard.  Behavior: You help a little old lady across the street — you have done the right thing.  You answered 4 when asked “What’s 2 plus 2″ — you gave the right answer.
  • Write: Find a piece of paper.  Find a pen (go ahead, I’ll wait, I know it’ll take some time in the digital age).  Put pen to paper, move your hand in a random motion simulating letters or numbers.  That’s writing.

Are/Our — I don’t know how this one started but it terrifies me each time I see it

  • Are:  is a verb.  It indicates something is happening: We are going to the store.  We are waiting for you.  We are getting agita reading your stuff.
  • Our: it’s a pronoun.  Change the sentences around and it can replace the ‘We’ in the above examples:  Our trip is to the store.  Our excuse is that we’re waiting for you.  Our problem is agita from reading your stuff.

Their/There/They’re

  • Their: Indicates possession.  Their car, Their home, Their infection, Their antibiotics.
  • There:  Indicates location. Go over there, you smell.  If you go there you will have your car stolen. There is nothing left in the bottle of bourbon.
  • They’re: Is a shortened form of “They are.”  Think of it this way — the apostrophe is a signal that there are letters missing from the two word phrase making this new word.   They’re really ticked at you.  They’re never going to forgive you.
    They’re going home because you spilled absinthe on their dog over there. Note the last sentence — all three forms of their/there/they’re.  The first – a short version of ‘they are,’ the second – possession (the dog), the third – the location of the spill.

Know/Now/No

  • Know: Indicating comprehension of a piece of information – think “knowledge.” You know your boss is going to fire you.
  • Now:  Indicating when something will happen.  Go away now.  Pitch the client now.  My boss is going to fire me now.  I know my boss is going fire me now.
  • No: No, really, do I have to explain N-O?

Its/It’s — This one’s a little tough.

  • It’s: Contracted form of “it is” or “it has” — just like with ‘they’re’ the apostrophe replaces some of the missing letters/spaces. It’s going to rain.  It’s going to end in a bar fight.  It’s just not attractive on you.  If the it’s can be replaced by it is or it has it needs the apostrophe.
  • Its: Indicates ownership. [Forget the use of the possessive when referring to other people’s stuff, (e.g. Bob’s computer).  Different rule here.]  The bar has lost its liquor license. [“it is” does not work in that sentence].  Now it’s never going to make a profit (there “it is” does work).

Yours/Your’s

  • Yours: Indicates ownership of something by someone else.  This book is yours.  Yours are the pants on the left.  Please don’t tell me yours are nicer than the others I’ve seen.
  • Your’s: Is not a word in English.  Please stop using it. Consider the contraction guidelines above — Is there any sentence that could contain the phrase “your is” or “your has” that makes any sense whatsoever?

Rant over.  Can we get these six down at least?  Though, I am curious to know everyone else’s pet peeves.  Let’s hear it.

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  • laurenfernandez

    “Lose” v. “Loose.” UGH.

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  • http://twitter.com/tjdietderich TJ Dietderich

    Yes. This.

    And, as bizarre as it may seem, “waste” vs. “waist.” I mean, come on!

  • http://twitter.com/josh_sternberg josh sternberg

    When I was teaching, I had to spend the 1st 15 minutes of a class explaining the difference between “your” and “you're.” This was a college communications course. It was embarrassing; it actually started with a student who used “ur.”

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com PR Cog

    Makes you loose your mind? :)

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com PR Cog

    Part II :)

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com PR Cog

    It really is truly terrifying sometimes. These also aren't concepts they would not have come across. We all have our weaknesses, it's just a matter of knowing what they are and double checking when they can't be avoided.

    I can almost never spell 'definitely' properly the first time while writing something (that time I happened to though).

    :) I'm a repeat offender with 'ur,' on Twitter but would be horrified to use it in class (or professionally) and distinguish between u're and ur.

  • AamandaOleson

    Agreed- “definitely” literally took me 24 years to learn to spell correctly.

    I'm surprised I haven't seen “effect” and “affect” brought up… anyone?

  • AamandaOleson

    Oh no. Did I actually just put too many “A”s in my own name? #fail.

  • http://twitter.com/josh_sternberg josh sternberg

    I had a boss once who abused the English language. He believed that improper grammar was the best way to show how smart you are. The logic in that still gives me headaches. He thought by being 'creative' with bad grammar would a) lead to people understanding his ideas and b) cover up how bad his ideas really were.

    And yes, we all have our weaknesses, but with spell check and the internet, it's really hard to mess these things up. It's not like I'm asking you to understand the difference between the past subjunctive and the past indicative. :)

  • sarasgraham

    Hallelujah! I love a good grammar rant. It kills me when people misuse your/you're (i.e., “Your welcome.” Aiiieee.) Also have seen some really bad weather/whether mixups.

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com PR Cog

    Well it's certainly a creative excuse to abuse English…

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com PR Cog

    I had forgotten about the whether/weathers. Part II seems to be right around the corner.

  • tracybb

    What about when people make something a plural when it should be a possessive? “I have to clean the cats bowl.” Or vice versa? “All the father's going to the Brownilympics should report at 9.” I see this one WAY too much.”

    Also, where/wear/were/we're…Are these just spelling errors or grammar ones?

  • tracybb

    Also, to vs. too.

  • http://thegeekgiant.com geekgiant

    Well, on the subject of grammatical aberrations in social media, the one that makes me cringe is “thru.”

    For general grammar flaws, see “towards,” improper uses of em- and en-dashes and putting two spaces after a sentence.

    The last one is kind of a joke, but not really. ;)

  • Inez

    The overuse of apostrophes.
    i.e. I got a bunch of banana's at the store today.

  • http://twitter.com/stina6001 Christina K

    haha – I often double check myself on that. No seriously. :)

  • http://twitter.com/_djh David Holliday

    My grammar isn't particularly good, but I do have an excuse that I often use – mainly that I was brought up speaking English and never took the time to learn American.

    Works all the time!

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com PR Cog

    Heh :) Centuries ago (1993) I installed Word Processing software for my boss on her new laptop. The language choices were “English, American or Spanish.” Oww!

  • Alice Brink, ABC, APR

    It is even worse when such egregious errors appear in more formal writing. An online PR newsletter this morning starts out with this sentence containing two misuses of the possessive pronoun as well as a subject/verb agreement problem and a questionable pronoun/antecedent reference as well (yes, in ONE sentence): “In today's PR Biz news, we report on Whirlpool's plans to “smarten up” it's appliances — and how they're paying for the innovations; what all the allegations against Google's technology really tells you; and just how much oil giant BP is shelling out this time for it's Texas City negligence in 2005.”

  • mcwise

    To vs. too vs. two — I have actually seen this misused as well and always hope they just chose the wrong suggestion from the spell check.

  • Gene LaNIer

    I have two items that bug me: Using a non-gender subject such as, “The artist sat at his desk.” What we rad today is. “The artist sat at their desk.” Hate that!

    Number two: Reflexives. You can send it to myself. Why can't these dummies understand there is a word called ME?

  • Ellen Porter

    Titled/Entitled
    Titled: Given a name
    Entitled: Given the right to do something.
    As the publishers, they are entitled to have the book titled whatever they think will sell.

  • Ellen Porter

    Titled/Entitled
    Titled: Given a name
    Entitled: Given the right to something

    As the publishers, they were entitled to have titled the book whatever they thought would sell best.

  • Kimi

    Lay and Lie or Flier and Flyer are two big ones I see used interchangeably and it drives me crazy!

  • Kimi

    Lay and Lie or Flier and Flyer are two big ones I see used interchangeably and it drives me crazy!

  • Bill Spaniel, ABC

    Unfortunately, the column started off with a solecism I dislike: alright. It's “all right.”

    I teach college-level writing, and I frequently confront “posses” when “possess” is meant. Other bugaboos are using nominative pronouns with gerunds (the possessive form is correct) and using “who” to refer to organizations like automobile manufacturers.

  • Bill Spaniel, ABC

    Unfortunately, the column started off with a solecism I dislike: alright. It's “all right.”

    I teach college-level writing, and I frequently confront “posses” when “possess” is meant. Other bugaboos are using nominative pronouns with gerunds (the possessive form is correct) and using “who” to refer to organizations like automobile manufacturers.

  • Bill

    lend vs. borrow. As in, “can you borrow me a pencil?” Makes me cringe every time.

    For the record, drunken composition is a requirement at some journalism schools. Wisconsin comes to mind :)

  • http://twitter.com/SonOfCross Jeff Cross

    Mine are since vs. sense and peace vs. piece. I'll never forget the time one of my co-workers was polling everyone in the division for Christmas Party ideas.

    In the closing of her final email on the subject she said, “Speak now or forever hold your piece.”

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com PR Cog

    Perhaps she wanted to ensure everyone was armed?

  • Tai

    I keep getting student papers that talk about “Now days.” What is this? Honestly.
    I am personally bothered by “thru” vs. “through.” I think I might be the only one annoyed by that, though.

  • Tai

    I keep getting student papers that talk about “Now days.” What is this? Honestly.
    I am personally bothered by “thru” vs. “through.” I think I might be the only one annoyed by that, though.

  • mlct

    How about your vs. you're? That's a big one I see many people get wrong. I know sometimes it is due to quick texts or posts, but that constant mistake is making people forget why “your so nice” is incorrect.

  • mlct

    I hate when people put two spaces after a period!

  • CortneyR

    These were all so good. A few more:
    1. Accept/Except-Accept means to willingly receive something (accept a gift.) “Except” means to exlude something (I’ll take all of the kittens except the black one.)
    2. Affect/Effect- The way you “affect” someone can have an “effect” on them. “Affect” is a verb and “Effect” is a noun.
    3. Alright- If you use “alright,” find a whiteboard and write “Alright is not a word” 100 times.

    And those are the just the ones that start with “a”….

    Ok one more: i.e vs. e.g- i.e. is used to say “in other words.” e.g. is used in place of “for example.”

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  • http://twitter.com/BaileyKo Bailey Koharchick

    Thank you! I’m so sick of hearing people misuse words. They drive me insane.