Wednesday, November 7, 2007

There Versus Their Versus They're

Three words that confuse many writers deserve a bit of attention. There, their, and they’re trip up many a writer. As with other homophones, it doesn’t matter which you use when you speak. That allows people to be lazy about knowing the difference if they don’t write much.

When you write “there”, think, “Where?” If you are writing about a location you should be able to answer that question. That means that you are using the correct form of the word.

If you use “their”, ask yourself, “Whose?” The word “their” indicates possession, which means that you should know who owns the object. If you aren’t writing about something that more than one person owns, don’t use “their”.

“They’re” is a contraction of “they are” (ah, a form of abbreviation that I didn’t specify in my last post). If you’ve used it in a sentence, try writing it out instead of using the contraction. If “they are” doesn’t fit in the sentence, you are using the wrong form.

These tricks will help you eliminate errors in using these words. As with many proofreading tasks, a moment’s thought will show you an error. Take your time re-reading your work and you’ll eliminate most of your mistakes easily.