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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.

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, Dictionary.com).

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!