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Sh!t Writers Say: There, Their, They’re

There, their and they’re. They sound the same, but they all have different spellings and they all have different meanings. We run into different misuses (head, meet wall) that pull us out of our reading or editing flow. We learned how to spell these words in elementary school; or, at least, we should have. We should also have learned which spelling goes with which meaning when we were but little tykes.

Still, as content writers, editors and readers, we run across obvious misspellings, showing that, for some, the lessons from Mrs. Quigly in third, fourth, fifth and even sixth grade either didn’t take or they didn’t stick. We all want to be regarded as “good” writers (not “gud riters”), right? Oooh, there’s another couple of words that give us fits! It’s time to take out that good, old-fashioned teacher’s pointer and point out some glaring errors. Paging Mrs. Quigly!

Oopsers on There
“There toys are right there.”

Wait a minute there! As writers, we have three different spellings and each one means something completely different. This sentence, of course, uses the same spelling for two clearly different words. One was (or should have been) written as a possessive and the second, which was correctly spelled, described location. With this gem in mind, how should that sentence have been spelled? “Their toys are right there.”

Pulling My Hair Out Over Their
“I wonder what their doing for dinner tonight?”

Gonna say it – remedial English class, no matter how old this “riter” is. Let’s do a quick ‘n dirty review right now. “Their”, with the “eir” is the possessive form and has to be used when referring to possessions. It isn’t supposed to be used when referring to more than one person. Let’s compare: their is the possessive and they’re is a compound of they and are.

There’s More Than One Way to Use They’re Incorrectly
Look at the spelling of this word. The little comma-like symbol in between the y and the r is the apostrophe. Can you make their or there into compound words? No, of course you can’t. (! Ooops, looks like I lied. You can make a compound out of there, but it’s not the correct spelling to use when you’re referring to more than one person.) Here’s an example: “They’re going to go to the game.”

Quick Review Time
Pop quiz! There means location. It doesn’t mean the possessive or the two words that can be squished together into a contraction. Please, for the love of correctness, use this spelling only when you are writing something that means location. Remember – there is the equivalent of location, location, location.

Their is the possessive form and is only supposed to be used when you can substitute it for a possessive pronoun.

They’re is the contracted form of they and are. You can write these as a contraction. Use it when you want to talk about multiple persons doing something – like spelling correctly.

Barbara A is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.

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Freelancer Barbara A

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