Often when writing, there are certain words that our fingers insist on typing or writing, even when our brains are well aware of their proper usage. Therefore, as we line edit and proofread, we must be vigilant in seeking them out and fixing them.
Here are a few:
It’s vs. Its
It’s is the contraction for it is or it has. To test to see if it’s is correct, read your sentence substituting it is or it has for it’s. If it sounds right, it is. Keep it’s.
Its, however, is a pronoun and signifies possession; it owns something. If it is or it has doesn’t make sense, chances are you want to use its. To confirm this, think about whether your sentence is talking about something belonging to it or owned by it. If it does, its is correct.
For more information, see Dictionary.com‘s definition of its and its discussion of how it’s confused with it’s.
Your vs. You’re
Your and you’re are cousins to the its and it’s. To decide which is appropriate in your sentence, follow the same advice. Read your sentence substituting you are for you’re; if it sounds right, you’re is the correct word. You’re is the contraction for you are.
According to Dictionary.com, your shows a possession owned or possessed by you, one, or, informally, all members of a group as in your clothes, your best best, or take your average Joe, for example.
If you are doesn’t make sense in your sentence, your is your best bet.
Now you’re a former you’re misuser from yore.
And just in case you’re tempted, yur is just a text-message abbreviation and is never appropriate in prose.
Except vs. Accept
One time, I got a chuckle out of a sign they kept showing on our local nightly news that said “Donations Excepted.”
According to Dictionary.com, “Excepted” means excluded or left out…
What I think the club probably meant to say was “Donations Accepted.”
According to Dictionary.com, “Accepted” means “generally approved” or “usually regarded as normal, right, etc.”
Stay tuned in future weeks for more unruly word pairs (or groups)!