It’s/Its Confusing – There/They’re/Their

One of the most common mistakes in writing is the use of it’s/its. Some people are confused as to what’s appropriate, and since it’s such a small word, it’s an easy accidental typo. Here’s a few tips and tricks on how to avoid this mistake.

It’s: the combination of ‘it’ and ‘is’, and only that combination. (Example: It’s hot outside today.)

Its: anytime ‘it is’ is not being combined; most commonly ‘its’ refers to an object. (Example: The flower is blooming, and its petal are a lovely red.)

When you reach your ‘editing faze’ with a story, do this simple trick to avoid the confusion of knowing which ‘its/it’s’ should be used. Think to yourself every time you see one: Would this be ‘it is’ if they weren’t joined? If they wouldn’t be ‘it is’ if separated, then you don’t need the ’.

Another common typo/misused word usage issue involves: there; they’re; and their. They all sound exactly the same, but mean completely different things.

There: a place (usually). (Example: They stood there looking at the painting.)

They’re: a combination of ‘they’ and ‘are’, and only that combination. (Example: They’re at the gallery.)

Their: possessive plural. (Example: Their feet were getting tired from walking all day.)

Again, editing… Look at your ‘there/they’re/their’ and see which one fits best. If it’s a combination of ‘they’ and ‘are’, than it’s an automatic ‘they’re’; if it’s a possessive plural, it’s ‘their’; and if it’s a place it’s ‘there’.

Being mindful of words that sound the same and mean different things causes them jump off the page at you, begging for correction. Be aware and learn of the differences – even go out of your way to learn them and their meanings so you can use them appropriately, because the English language is riddled with them.

Mistakes can be avoided with knowledge, so know your business as a writer – your business of words and how to use them!

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©Rebecca Besser, 2011. All rights reserved.
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