By Sharon Bohm

 What’s wrong with this picture? It should be “Girls” plural. “Girl’s” is possessive. Ex. “It’s that girl’s bag.” If they had wanted to show possessive, then it should read, “Girls’ Room”.

Recently a SCORE blog post from GoDaddy talked about the importance of proofreading blog posts before hitting “publish”. I was asked to contribute these grammar tips as a sequel. Sure your proofreading, but do you know what to look for? Sometimes words seem similar and are easily misused. For instance, in the previous sentence, did you notice that it’s the wrong “your”? It should be you’re, a contraction of you and are. If you’re not sure which “your” to use, replace it with “you are”. If it makes sense, then it’s “you’re” if not, then it’s the possessive “your”.

Here are a few of the more common grammar errors and some tips to avoid them:

Which Word?

Then or Than

Then or than cannot be used interchangeably.

Then can indicate a period of time.

Ex. I didn’t eat breakfast when I woke up because I wasn’t hungry then.

In can also indicate an order in a series.

Ex. First, I went to the grocery store. Then, I went home and cooked dinner.

Then is also used in conditional statements paired with the word if.

Ex. If I run my errands today, then, I won’t have to run them tomorrow.

Than is used to compare two items.

Ex. I prefer chocolate than vanilla ice cream.

Important thing to note: Do not rely on Spell Check to catch a mistake misusing then or than or other words that are similar. It won’t. Always proofread your work. Proofreading is good practice in writing.

Affect or Effect

Like then and than, these two words cannot be used interchangeably and people often get confused when to use them.

Affect is generally used as a verb meaning to influence.

Ex. Not studying for finals will negatively affect your grade.

Effect is generally used as a noun that is the result of a cause.

Ex. Not studying had a negative effect on my grade.

Important thing to note: Again, Spell Check will not catch a mistake misusing effect and affect.

There, Their, or They’re

Although misusing these forms is common, it is not tricky to remember when to use each.

There generally indicates a specific place.

Ex. My car is over there.

There is also used to introduce a noun.

Ex. There is too much dressing on my salad.

Their is a possessive. It indicates belonging.

Ex. That is their car.

You can even use them both in a sentence.

Ex. Their car is over there.

They’re is a contraction of they are. That is the only time it is used.

Ex. They’re coming with us.

Other Possessives

Just about everyone knows that you need to use an apostrophe (‘) to indicate possession.

Ex. That is Lisa’s book.

There is an exception. The word it’s is not a possessive. It’s is a contraction for it is. Use its without the apostrophe to indicate possession.

Ex. The dog ate its kibble.

Other examples of possessives that do not use the apostrophe include: theirs, his, hers, our – to name a few.

And then there are common typos like:

  • form / from
  • out / our
  • too, to and two (also, where and the number)
  • now / own
  • of / off

The proper use of commas is another major topic that we’ll leave for another post.

‘Fess up: What are your common typos or grammar errors? Please comment below.


About the Author:

Sharon Bohm is a local  freelance writer. She taught English Composition for the Maricopa Community College District for many years. Connect with her on LinkedIn.