Archive | June 2007

Style lesson #2: More Contractions

I previously spelled out the difference between your and you’re in last week’s post. This time I will be sorting out its from it’s, and their from they’re; one a pronoun, the other a contraction.

Like you in the previous lesson, its and their are the possessive forms of the pronouns it and they. If you simply want to say that someone has ownership of something, you use either possessive depending on the pronoun.

For example:

The Ramirezes were present during the eldest daughter’s recital.

They were present during the recital.

Their presence was important.

In this case, you wonder, whose presence was important? And you point to the Ramirezes. Their presence was needed.

Similarly its refers to the possessive of it, a singular pronoun that refers to something whose gender we aren’t sure of or where a gender-neutral pronoun is preferred.

The labrador was not feeling well.

It had not eaten for days.

Its owner, Jeff, who was away on a business trip, was worried.

In this case, instead of saying The labrador’s owner, you use the possessive form its.

That (long) clarification aside, let me just reiterate that in the case of they’re and it’s, which are contractions, the apostrophe is meant to symbolize letters that were taken out to shorten the word.

Thus, they’re is short for they are, and it’s is the abbreviated form of it is.

They are supposed to be here!

They’re still on the road.

It is unbelievable how so many online writers get contractions all wrong.

It’s sad that this erroneous practice is propagated.

There. I hope that was clear enough. For any questions, you know how to reach me: the Contact page has my e-mail address.


Writing (Sexy) Headlines

I know I promised a follow-up of style lesson # 1, which will be up tonight, as I am busy crafting a headline for an article I should finish today. But let me just talk about something that’s been giving me a migraine for the last two hours: headlines.

Headlines are a tricky thing. While it will probably take me an hour or two to come up with six paragraphs of a feature, a good headline (and something that leaves me giddy for days, thinking I was brilliant to have thought of it) is something I mull over, sometimes for hours.

They usually come during an adrenaline rush, such as when I’m jogging like crazy around the university oval. Or after I’m flipping through Details and thrown off by some unsavory stories.

For the less talented among us who struggle to say something emphatic in as few words as possible, reporter and editor Leo Babauta has some tips on “The Sexy Art of Writing Headlines that Kill.”

Leo also has a personal site, Zen Habits, in which he writes about productivity.

Shameless Plug: Runaway

My first book is coming out in two weeks, I was told today. Runaway, a chick lit, isrunaway-copy.jpg produced by Manila-based Psicom Publishing.

The novel is about a girl who moves to a different city to forget an old love, eventually finding a new one who also moves away. Should she leave the city to forget, or should she stay and go on with her life? It’s a case of finding love at the wrong time. “Your timing is really off,” one of the characters says. Sounds familiar?

The title, obviously, was inspired by the Corrs’ song “Runaway,” which was my anthem when I was fresh out of college eight years ago and very restless. I was initially wary of using my real name because I wanted my first work to be something really serious.

Fictionist Nikki Alfar, who has won two Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature for a one-act play and a short story for children, really inspired me when she said, “Just because we put the word ‘chick’ in front of the phrase doesn’t mean it ain’t literature, baby.”

So there. I hope you get a copy for yourselves when it hits the bookstores. Enjoy!

Style lesson #1: Contractions

No, I am not talking about birth pains here. I am referring to a word or a phrase “formed by omitting or combining some of the sounds of a longer phrase” (thanks,

One of the biggest mistakes writers (and bloggers aren’t spared of this either) make is interchanging you’re and your. It’s unforgivable because contractions are one of the earliest lessons we learn in grade school.

Writing is a marriage of form and substance. You may have interesting content, but if it’s not readableif it’s peppered with misspelled words, misplaced punctuation, and bad grammaryou lose credibility and authority.

Yes, people, there is a difference between your and you’re, and it’s not just the spelling. Let me illustrate:

Your is the possessive case of the pronoun you. It indicates ownership of something, or that a certain object belongs to you.

Your dress looks lovely.

Your dreams will come true.

Meanwhile, you’re is a shortened version of the phrase you are.

You are the worst liar ever.

You’re the worst liar ever.

She thinks you are trying to pick her up.

She thinks you’re trying to pick her up.

A tip: your always comes before a noun (which refers to a person, place, object, or action).

Your hair

Your happiness

Your loyalty

Your boyfriend

Your house

Your attitude

I hope that was clear enough. Your writing will certainly improve if you’re more conscious of rules on style. On Thursday: it’s vs. its, and they’re vs. their.

Enjoy writing!