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Written Errors You Don’t Know You’re Making

Last week we discussed some common vocabulary and grammar errors many people make in professional speech. This week, we’ll continue the series with errors in written communication that many people don’t realize they’re making.

People often incorrectly interchange the following words in their writing. Use the following rules as a guide to make sure your usage is correct:

they’re / their / there:

  • “They’re” is a combination of they and are, and is only used in situations in which those two words would be appropriate. For example “They are from China,” could be rewritten as “They’re from China.”
  • “Their” is a possessive pronoun used to demonstrate ownership. For example, the sentence “Mary and Jim’s daughter is three years old,” may be rewritten as, “Their daughter is three years old.”
  • “There” demonstrates location. For example, “The bottle is way over there.”


your / you’re:

  • “Your”, like “their”, is a possessive pronoun,  and is used to demonstrate ownership. For example, “Your shoes are in the kitchen.”
  • “You’re” is a contraction of the two words “you” and “are”. For example, “You’re a wonderful boss.”


affect / effect:

  • “Affect” is a verb and “effect” is a noun. A good way to remember this is a verb is an action word, and both “action” and “affect” start with a. The following sentences are examples of correct usage:

“The pills can affect your mood.”

“The pills can cause strange side effects.”

Check in with us again next week when we conclude our series on common errors in speech and writing.

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