English is a screwy language. Theres just no logic to it. Why is daughter pronounced daw-ter, but laughter not law-ter? How can though, through, and tough look so similar and yet sound so different? Why does I come before E except after C? Whats so effing SPECIAL about C?
This is the reason that people who speak more sensible languages approach English with stumbling trepidation. English is insane. It has the capacity to confuse even the smartest of its native speakers including scientists, engineers and company presidents especially when it has to be put down on paper.
This I know from experience. As a copywriter, a large part of my job is to translate pages upon pages of writing written by non-writers into copy that is short, persuasive, easy-to-read, and yes perfectly spelt and grammatically (or at least colloquially) correct.
Nobody knows the troubles Ive seen.
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For the most part, each person is unique in terms of writing disability (myself included). But there are some crimes of confusion particularly when it comes to spelling that I come across on an almost daily basis. And like overstaying guests, theyve begun to grate on my nerves, becoming more and more unforgivable with each unwelcome appearance. Things like:
1. YOURE and YOUR
If you have no idea when to use which. Well, youre not on your own. This is perhaps the most common mistake of all. Heaven knows why. The distinction is really quite simple:
- Youre is used to substitute the words you are.
- Your is a word you use when referring to something that belongs to the person youre speaking to. Your purse, your coat, and so on and not Your late! or Your wrong!
2. ITS and ITS
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Close cousins of youre and your, its and its suffer about the same amount of misuse.
- Its (with an apostrophe) replaces It is or It has. (Its easy to remember!)
- Its (with no apostrophe) refers to something that belongs to it. (Its meaning is clear!)
3. THEYRE, THEIR, and THERE
Ah, the triple treat or terror, as the case may be.
- Theyre is short for They are.
- Their refers to something that belongs to them.
- And there is simply not here.
Theyre going to their house, which is over there.
September 19, 2009