Sign up to the newsletter

Their is a problem with you're grammar

Did you spot the deliberate mistakes?  If so, read no further, you're off the hook!

I am often asked how 'perfect' a submission needs to be, in terms of its grammar and spelling.  Spelling should be spell-checked, preferably by a person rather than a machine, and grammar shouldn't stand out as wrong. I don't make a point of trying to find the mistakes but when something affects the sense of a sentence or a passage then that raises a red flag.

What drives me absolutely crazy (and pretty much every editor I have ever met), is the common confusion writers have with 'your' and 'you're', 'their, they're, there'', and problems with apostrophes.  This is my cut out and keep guide if this applies to you:

Your = belonging to you - such as 'your cat is sick'.  Not to be confused with:

You're = a contraction of 'you are' - such as 'you're sick and your cat is also sick'.

They're = a contraction of 'they are' - such as 'they're sick of hearing about your cat'.

There = a place - such as 'There is your sick cat'.

Their = belonging to them - such as 'their sick cat is over there, whereas your sick cat is over there.'

Now - apostrophes.  There are whole websites devoted to the correct use of apostrophes, so feel free to search out different advice, if mine doesn't clarify the issue for you.

An apostrophe is used when you have a gap because you are using a contraction - so turning two words into a loosely connected word, such as 'you are' turning into 'you're'  - the apostrophe here acts as the missing 'a'.

It also is used for possession.  'Mary's cat' - so the cat belonging to Mary.

It is not used to indicate a plural.  'Mary has cats'.  If you have a plural that ends in 's' and you wish to indicate possession - then there are two acceptable alternatives.  'Mary's cats' beds are pink'.  or 'Mary's cats's beds are pink'.  Note in these examples, the cats belong to Mary (first apostrophe), and the beds belong to the cats (second apostrophe).

The exception is its/it's.  'It is' contracts to 'it's'.  'It has' contracts to 'it's'.  The item belonging to it doesn't get an apostrophe - so 'The cat licked its paws'.

That's it!  (That is it).  Go forth and use your apostrophes wisely!  (note no apostrophe at the end of apostrophes as it's a simple plural (it is a simple plural)).

If you found this article useful, you might want to take a look at:

How not to write a synopsis

What is it in the ideal submission package - and what isn't?

Creative process - your toolbox for self-improvement