In the last decade or so, with the rise of instant
messaging, text messages, facebook comments, and twitter,
there has evolved a kind of electronic shorthand that has become acceptable for
informal communication. For example, one might replace you with u,
and people with ppl. This I believe to be
perfectly acceptable in an informal setting, as they take the form of
abbreviations or contractions, and thereby are understandable since they do not
change the grammatical structure or context of a sentence.
As the English language continues to devolve into this
electronic shorthand, however, I have been noticing more and more frequently
that people are starting to forget the differing spellings and meanings of
various homonyms, or words that sound similar. For instance, both your
and you’re have been contracted to ur, with no discernible
difference between the two other than their contexts. Therefore I have
assembled this guide, containing the mistakes I most commonly notice, to help
you not look like an idiot when you write.
YOUR – YOU’RE
“Your” is a possessive form of “you”, referring to
something that belongs to the person indicated by “you”.
“Alex, your butt is showing” – Alerting Alex to the
fact that his butt cheeks are visible
“Alex, is that your dirty napkin?” – Asking Alex if that
is his filthy, disgusting napkin
“You’re” is a contraction for “you are”. You must
use “you’re” only when “you are” would logically replace it.
“Alex, you’re so generous” – Complementing Alex’s generosity. This
works because you would also say “Alex, you are so generous.”
“Alex, you’re bleeding” – Alerting Alex to an injury
THEIR – THEY’RE – THERE – THERE’RE
“Their” is a possessive form of “they” (much like
“your” corresponds to “you”) referring to something that belongs to the people
indicated by “them”.
“Alex, they have lost their minds” – Informing Alex that the
Republicans have been a disappointment in reigning in the Democrats' runaway spending
“Alex, the babies need their diapers changed” – Notifying Alex of the
babies’ waste situations
“They’re” is a contraction for “they are”. You must
use “they’re” only when “they are” would logically replace it.
“Alex, they’re laughing at us” – Short for “they
are laughing at us”
“Alex, they’re alive” – Letting Alex know that the
mummies have come to life
“There” is an adverb meaning “that location”, or “in
“Alex, there is no reason to cry” – Comforting Alex
“Alex, get over there” – Commanding Alex to get into the
corner for being such a crybaby
“There’re” is an informal contraction for “there
are”. Ideally, you would just say “there are”, but when you wish to shorten
it, “there’re” should be used when referring to something plural. You would
say, “there are ten reasons,” not “there’s (there is) ten reasons.”
“Alex, there’re ten problems with this article” – Discussing the
lameness of these sample sentences. This works because you would say, “there
are ten problems”
“Alex, there’re the sandwiches you wanted” – Describing the location of
WERE – WHERE – WE'RE
“Were” is the past tense of "are". Try replacing "were"
with "are". If "are" works in the present tense, then "were" works in the past.
“Alex, were you at the gay rights rally?” – Asking Alex a silly question to
which you should already know the answer
“Alex, they were crazy.” – Revealing to Alex that his friends used to like
“Where” refers to a place.
“Alex, where is the Miracle Whip?” – Asking Alex where the best Turkey
sandwich condiment is
“Alex, that's where they rape you.” – Explaining to Alex that Best Buy is
where they charge $60 for HDMI cables
“We're” is a contraction for "we are". "We're" is only
appropriate when you can replace it with "we are".
“Alex, we're always wrong” – The Liberals finally admit their follies.
This works because you would say "we are
“Alex, we're happy to see you” – What everyone in the world says when they
see Alex. This works because you would say "we are happy to see you"
ITS – IT’S
“Its” is a possessive pronoun, describing something
that belongs to the item referred to by “it”.
“Alex, the snake has shed its skin” – Alerting Alex
to the snake’s shiny new appearance
“Alex, Microsoft is regaining its credibility” –
Commenting on the strength of Windows 7
“It’s” is a contraction for “it is” or “it has”. This is
appropriate only where “it is” or “it has” would also make sense.
“Alex, it’s a hippy!” – Notifying Alex of a waste of life in his
presence. This works because you would say “it is a hippy.”
“Alex, it's been so painful.” – Expressing to Alex that watching
“The Hills” was pure torture. This works because you would say
“it has been so painful.”
TOO – TWO – TO
“Too” is an adverb that essentially means “also”, or
adds to the qualities of a verb.
“Alex, I ate too much pizza” – Complaining to Alex
that I stuffed my gullet with pizza
“Alex, I hate the smell of laundry, too” – Noting that I
also despise the smell of laundry
“Two” is the word form of the number 2.
“Alex, you must have two hearts” – Commenting on
Alex’s loving nature
“Alex, this is the second of two examples” – Describing
this example as the second
“To” is either a preposition, or part of an
infinitive. It’s used pretty much wherever “too and “two” aren’t appropriate.
“Alex, I’m going to the circus” – Telling Alex that
I am visiting the three-ring circus
“Alex, do you want to eat?” – Asking Alex if he is literally