Homophones: Its and It’s

its and it's

Homophones sound alike: its and it’s.

Homophones confuse some people and annoy others. I often see people online complaining about other people who can’t differentiate between the spellings of homophones like your and you’re; they’re, their, and there, and of course, its and it’s.

While I find these mistakes mildly annoying, I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call them pet peeves, and I don’t feel any particular urge to vent or publicly complain about other people’s ability to spell (unless I’m discussing the quality of education in my country).

Just because the confusion of its and it’s makes me crinkle my nose a little does not mean that if I see this mistake I’m going to stop reading your blog or throw your novel into the recycling bin. It’s really not that big of a deal and is exactly the kind of typo that’s outweighed by good, strong writing. Read More

Grammar Rules: Subject-Verb Agreement

grammar rules subject verb agreement

The grammar rules surrounding subject-verb agreement.

The rule is simple: singular subjects take singular verbs and plural subjects take plural verbs.

But sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether a subject is singular or plural. That’s why subject-verb agreement errors crop up in so many pieces of writing.

Making matters worse is the fact that most people don’t know what subject-verb agreement means. In fact, too many people don’t know a subject from a verb.

When you’re fixing up your sentences and making sure they are correct, it helps to know the parts of speech, how to conjugate a verb, and how to diagram a sentence (so you can identify the subject). If you understand all those basic elements of language, then you can easily make sure your subjects and verbs are in agreement. Read More

Punctuation Marks: The Exclamation Mark

exclamation mark

All about the exclamation mark.

It’s a relatively simple punctuation mark — a bold one without a lot of confusing rules — yet it’s still grossly overused.

It gives our sentences pizzazz. It emphasizes dialogue when one character shouts or snaps at another. And it gives copy editors headaches.

The exclamation mark sure packs a punch. Read More

Homophones: Hear, Here

homophones hear here

How to remember the difference between homophones hear and here.

When I see professional signs or business documents with words spelled incorrectly, it’s like someone’s dragging nails down a chalkboard, which is something I don’t want to hear.

But I try not to get too riled up. I know that spelling isn’t easy for everyone. However, I do believe that with a little effort, anyone can learn the proper spelling of a word.

I also realize that homophones present a special challenge, because when two words sound exactly alike but are spelled differently, we have to work a little harder to remember which spelling goes with which definition. Read More

Grammar Rules: Ending a Sentence with a Preposition

ending a sentence with a preposition

Is ending a sentence with a preposition ever acceptable?

A longstanding grammar myth  says we’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. For years, this myth has persisted, tying writers up in knots and making their heads spin around sentences that simply must end with a preposition.

For example: Which store are you going to?

Folks who were taught (and are now attached to the idea) that one should never end a sentence with a preposition will argue that the proper way to write the sentence is as follows: To which store are you going?

But nobody talks that way. Read More

Punctuation Marks: Ellipsis

punctuation marks ellipses

Punctuation marks: the ellipses…

You see it everywhere, but most people don’t know what it’s called or how to use it properly.

In fact, it’s often referred to as “dot, dot, dot” even though it does have a name. This punctuation mark is the ellipsis.

It is a series or row of three periods, which is usually used to indicate an omission. It may also be used to indicate faltering or interrupted speech or a pause.

Punctuation Marks 

Some punctuation marks are clear-cut while others cause a lot of confusion. Most of us mastered periods and question marks back in elementary school. Commas, semicolons, and ellipses aren’t as easy to master. As a result, many punctuation marks are frequently misused.  Read More

Homophones: Compliment vs. Complement

compliment vs complement

Homophones: compliment vs. complement.

Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings. Sometimes, they’re also spelled differently: compliment vs. complement.

Since homophones sound the same, they are often misspelled. Sometimes they’re misspelled because the writer doesn’t know there are two different spellings. In other cases, misspelled homophones are the result of typing too fast or failing to proofread carefully.

Spell check will not catch these typos because the spelling is legitimate, even if it’s for a word with a different meaning.

To make it easier to remember which spelling goes with which meaning, we can use mnemonic devices, which are memory tricks. Today, we’re going to learn how to remember the difference between the homophones compliment and complement. Read More

Grammar Rules: Further vs. Farther

further vs farther

Further vs. farther: Is it further away or farther away?

Believe it or not, the words further and farther have different meanings, although people tend to use them interchangeably.

And it’s no surprise, because these two words look alike, sound alike, and the difference in meaning is subtle. Plus there are a few circumstances when they are legitimately interchangeable.

Let’s solve the further vs. farther mystery once and for all. Read More

Punctuation Marks: The Colon

the colon

Punctuation marks: the colon.

The colon is one of the most clearly-defined punctuation marks. It occasionally acts as a stand-in for a comma or period (though when one of these other punctuation marks will do, the colon is unnecessary).

Most commonly, the colon functions as an introductory punctuation mark, notifying the reader that the forthcoming information supports, explains, or elaborates upon what has been said prior to the colon.

These punctuation marks are common in math and science as well as technical documentation. In creative writing, we don’t see a lot of colons unless we’re working on a script. Colons are most often seen in text where a list is being introduced.

The Chicago Manual of Style provides a succinct definition for the colon: Read More

Homophones: Affect vs. Effect

affect vs effect

Homophones sound alike: affect vs. effect.

Homophones can be confusing. Luckily, there’s an easy way to remember affect vs. effect.

I see it all the time: affect and effect mixed up as if they were completely interchangeable.

But they’re not.

These two homophones may sound exactly alike, but they don’t even belong to the same parts of speech!

If you’ve ever written one of these words and scrunched up your eyebrows wondering whether to spell it with an a or an e, then this grammar lesson is for you! Read More