Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #10

From the Editor’s Eye
The 10 Most Common Errors Made by Writers
(And How to Fix Them)

The first of a ten-part series.

#10. They’re, Their Now: Contractions & Homophonic Convergence

Our ears (and eyes) play dirty tricks on us when it comes to contractions and the words that sound like them. The process can cause us great anxiety as we think back to our eighth-grade English class and try to recall the rules Ms. Bitterlip laid out for us.

I encounter these examples most often:

  • They’re, Their, There, There’re
    • they’re = a contraction of they are:
      They’re going to the concert.
    • their = a pronoun relating to two or more people, especially in the sense of possession, ownership, or belonging to them:
      That is their house.
    • there = a place: He is standing over there.
      or a point in a process: There is where I disagree with you.
    • there’re = a contraction of there are:
      There’re four items in the shopping cart.

grammar_cow

  • You’re, Your, Yore
    • you’re = a contraction of you are:
      You’re going where?
    • your = a pronoun relating to you or belonging to you:
      Is that your house?
    • yore =  a time long past:
      Once upon a time, in the days of yore . . .
  • It’s vs. Its
    • it’s = a contraction of it is:
      It’s your turn.
    • its = a pronoun relating to an object, especially in the sense of possession or belonging to, or of an action:
      The legislature passed the law, its final enactment of the session.
  • Could’ve, Should’ve
    • Could’ve is the contracted form of “could have”: She could have gone home.
    • Should’ve is the contracted form of “should have”: She should have gone home.
    • incorrect: She could of gone home.
    • incorrect: She should of gone home.
    • correct: She could’ve gone home.
    • correct: She should’ve gone home.
  • Let’s vs. Lets
    • let’s = a contraction of let us
      Let’s go for a walk.
    • lets =  third-person singular form of the verb let: to permit or allow
      Having a dog lets me sleep soundly at night.
  • Here’s and There’s
    • here’s = a contraction of here is; it refers to a single item or instance
    • there’s = a contraction of there is; it refers to a single item or instance

I probably hear these contractions more often than I see them in print, but it bugs me nonetheless: singular construction used in a plural context, even by otherwise apparently literate individuals and those who make a living speaking to the public.

  • incorrect: Here’s three reasons for that.
  • incorrect: There’s three reasons for that.
  • correct: Here are three reasons for that. Or, when speaking (not recommended for written form, unless in dialogue): Here’re three reasons for that.
  • correct: There are three reasons for that. Or, when speaking (not recommended for written form, unless in dialogue): There’re three reasons for that.

If you have examples or anecdotes you want to share with me and others, please use the comment box at the bottom of the page.

References & Resources


Rewind:

Introduction


Still to come:

#9. Commagain? The Oxford Deflate & Dialogue Punchuating Bag
#8. Word Contortion: Homophonic Trip-ups
#7. Three Dots and Out: Give Your Ellipsis Elbow Room
#6. A Tense Moment: Word Context, Past& Present
#5. Dash It All! Part A: Hyphen and En Dash
#4. Dash It All! Part B: Em Dash
#3. Pronounflagration: Pronoun Profusion, Confusion, Contusion
#2. Apostrophic Calamity: Apostrophe vs. Dumb Quotes
#1. Verbal Abuse: Lie Down with Lay & Related Verb Warps
Extra: My Pet Peeves

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About Polishing Your Prose

Larry M Edwards is an award-winning investigative journalist, author, editor and publishing consultant. He is the author of three books, and has edited dozens of nonfiction and fiction book manuscripts. Under Wigeon Publishing, he has produced six books. As author, "Dare I Call It Murder? A Memoir of Violent Loss" won First Place in the San Diego Book Awards in 2012 (unpublished memoir) and 2014, Best Published Memoir. The book has also been nominated for a number of awards, including: Pulitzer Prize, Benjamin Franklin Award, Washington State Book Award, and One Book, One San Diego. As Editor, "Murder Survivor’s Handbook: Real-Life Stories, Tips & Resources" won the Gold Award in the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Book Awards, Self-Help. For a sample edit and cost estimate, contact Larry: larry [at] larryedwards [dot] com -- www.larryedwards.com -- www.dareicallitmurder.com -- www.wigeonpublishing.com
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19 Responses to Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #10

  1. Pingback: From the Editor’s Eye: The 10 Most Common Errors Made by Writers | Polishing Your Prose

  2. florabfinest says:

    When I was teaching, I saw these contractions errors so many times that I had to double check my own use of them.

    • florabfinest says:

      Yikes! This is one of those times when I wish I could edit my reply after submitting it. I didn’t need to make “contraction” plural. I was ruined by seeing so many usage, punctuation, and other language errors during a 40-year teaching career.

  3. adrienne jacoby says:

    Love your (not you’re . .. ahem) graphic. Reminds me of. “Let’s eat, Gramma.” Much more social acceptable WITH the comma.

  4. Reblogged this on Sandra Yeaman and commented:
    And here’s #10 in Larry’s David Letterman Top Ten format: Contractions & Homonymic Convergence. I like big words; don’t you?

  5. Pingback: Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #10 | San Diego Writers/Editors Guild

  6. It is much more civilized for us to analyze words to see why contractions are spelled as they are than it is to swear and scream and tear books and punch out people who say “could of” or who refuse to use “I” as a subject and “me” as an object. Well done!

  7. Pingback: Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #7 | Polishing Your Prose

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