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Avoiding Common Grammar Mistakes

Updated on July 16, 2008

Simple Grammar Errors Cost You Credibility

When you're online, your words are your first impression. If you're building a business or a reputation as an online writer, it's important to present yourself well. Even casual, conversational writing needs good basic grammar.

Professional writing demands a higher standard, and publishers tend to reject error-filled manuscripts and submissions under the very valid theory that, if you were careless with the form of your writing, you were probably just as careless with the content.

Avoiding the most common grammar mistakes are a good start to showing your best both online and off.

Pronouns: Possessives Versus Contractions

"Its" or "It's"?

Confusing possessive words with plurals is very common, especially when dealing with pronouns.

A Simple Way To Remember Possessive Personal Pronouns - (Sorry about the alliteration in the title.)

Possessive Personal Pronouns Do Not Have An Apostrophe

Hers, His, Its, Ours, Theirs, Yours, Whose

Just remember "His & Hers"; none of the other personal possessive pronouns have an apostrophe ('), either.

  • Hers

    "Hers" is the possessive of the pronoun "her".

    She lost hers.

    Hers is not a word.

    An easy way to remember this is to think of "his's", which is not a word, either.

  • She's

    "She's" is the contraction of "she is".

    She's looking for it now.

  • His

    "His" is the possessive of the pronouns "he" and "him".

    It belongs to him; it's his.

    "His's" is not a word because "His's" would be the contraction of "his is".

  • He's

    "He's" is the contraction of "he is".

    He's looking for it now.

  • Its

    "Its" is the possessive of the pronoun "it".

    The dog was loose because its collar had come off.

  • It's

    "It's" is the contraction of "it is".

    It's running around the neighborhood now.

  • Ours

    "Ours" is the possessive of the pronouns "us" and "we".

    Ours is still at home.

    "Us's" is not a word because "us's" would be the contraction of "us is", just as "we's" is the contraction of "we is".

  • Theirs

    "Theirs" is the possessive of the pronouns "they" and "them".

    Theirs is a different color. The red one belongs to them.

    "Their's" is not a word because "their's" would be the contraction of "they is".

  • Whose

    "Whose" is the possessive of the pronoun "who".

    I wonder whose has stripes?

  • Yours

    "Yours" is the possessive of the pronoun "you".

    This blue one is yours.

    "Your's" is not a word because "your's" would be the contraction of "your is" and that just doesn't make sense.

Anyway, Anywhere, Everywhere, Nowhere, Somewhere

None of these adverbs end in "s".

The Elements of Style - William Strunk and E. B. White's classic writing manual.

The Elements of Style is the definitive writing reference manual. If you're writing at any level, this should be in your shelf right next to the Harbrace Handbook.

When To Use "A" and When To Use "The"

"A" implies one of two or more choices.

"The" means the only choice.

Bob is a valedictorian of his high school class.

Translantion: Bob is one valedictorian of his class the year that he graduated, but there is at least one other.

Bob is the Valedictorian of his high school class.

Translantion: Bob is the only valedictorian of his class the year that he graduated.

It's a fine difference, but be careful that the words you choose do not imply something that wasn't intended. Also notice that "valedictorian" is only capitalized when used as a title, as opposed to when it is used as a description.

Could've, Should've, Will've, Would've, But Haven't Yet

"Could have", "should have", "will have", or "would have" are correct; "could of", "should of", "will of", or "would of" are not.

The contractions "could've", "should've", "will've", and "would've" are also correct.

I have a theory that the "could of" problem exists because, in some accents (including mine), "could've" sounds the same as "could of".

The Harbrace Handbook

Do you really need a Harbrace Handbook?

Only if you plan on writing something that other people will be reading...

Comments About This Grammar Lens

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    • DFYcontent profile image


      6 years ago

      Was having trouble with possessive personal pronouns all of a sudden, thanks for the easy to remember tips. I'm going to blame my confusion on English not being my first language and getting up way too early on a Sunday morning...

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      In the "A" vs. "The"...the correct spelling is "translation" not "translantion."

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Awesome tips! Another great resource is the book "Painless Grammar" by Rebecca Elliot.

      Also, if you're not keen on learning the rules of grammar (you probably should be), you can also try out this cool service:

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Great tips! im sure everyone would find this useful in writing content for their websites.


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