Grammar Tricks

Writing Nuts and Bolts

Posts about common grammar mistakes are plentiful on the Internet. However, many of them fail to be very helpful for the non-grammarian, because grammar is used to explain grammar. Without a strong background and interest in grammar, posts like these are not going to make a lasting impression. A grammar-explaining-grammar might go something like this:

Your is the wrong word here because your is a possessive adjective, and what this sentences needs is a subject and a verb, which you are–or you’re–accomplishes.”

While this explanation may be entirely accurate and true, it’s more likely to hurt your brain than be helpful. The goal of this post is to skip over all the grammar explanations, and focus on practices that you can use without needing any grammar knowledge other than the knowledge you already have. (And yes, you have some. You just may not know it. I promise.)

1. You’re versus Your

First, we need to establish that you’re means you are. The easiest way to test if you have the correct word is to insert you are in the sentence. If your sentence makes sense,  you’re is the appropriate choice. If the sentence doesn’t make sense, then you need your.

I know you’re leaving soon. = I know you are leaving soon. = good sentence.

I think you left you’re shirt in my car. = I think you left you are shirt in my car. = bad sentence –> you need your.

2. Who’s versus Whose

Who’s can be either who is or who has. This means that you can put who is or who has into your sentence. If it makes sense, who’s is correct. If your sentence does not make sense, then whose is appropriate.

Who’s excited for ice cream? = Who is excited for ice cream? = good sentence.

Who’s book is this? = Who is book is this? -or- Who has book is this? = bad sentence –> you need whose.

3. It’s versus Its

Yes, you may have guessed: this one is the like the previous two items. It’s can be either it is or it has. Put it is or it has into the sentence. If the sentence makes sense, then it’s is the correct choice. If not, then you need its.”

I just read this book. It’s awesome! = It is awesome. = good sentence.

I just read this book. It’s name is The Best Damn Book Ever (TBDBE). = It is name is TBDBE. -or- It has name is TBDBE. = bad sentence –> you need its.

4. “And I” versus “And Me”

In this case, we’re actually removing information from the sentence to test if it’s grammatical. Whenever you use and I or and me in a sentence, it comes with other people (that’s why we use and!). To test whether you need I or me, you remove the other people in the sentence. Reread the sentence. You should be able to tell whether I or me sounds correct.

Join Kelly and I for Unbreaking the Shelves! = Join I for Unbreaking the Shelves! = bad sentence –> you need and me.

This is a picture of you and I. = This is a picture of I = bad sentence –> you need and me.

What grammar tricks do you use?

and me or and I? it's or its?  Your or you're?Who's or whose?

About the author: Amanda Shofner. Writing coach + editor. Author who creates stories to satisfy her opposing desires: adventure and staying home. INTJ + HSP + left-handed.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Patti Ludwig Oct 15, 2012

    And for to/too, try replacing your “to/too” with “overly”.  If it works, good sentence with “too”, if it does not work, you need only one O.

    “I’m going too the store” = “I am going overly the store” = bad sentence.  I am going to the store.

    “he has too little intelligence for an intelligence agent” – “He has  overly little intelligence” =  good sentence.

    • Amanda Shofner Oct 15, 2012

      Patti, that is excellent advice. I think the problem with to/too is that ‘too’ has multiple meanings (both overly and also) and ‘to’ acts as both a preposition and part of infinitive verbs. I could probably devote an article just to the to/too conundrum! 

  • Bookgoonie Oct 21, 2012

    Thanks for the whose v who’s trick. WP is always catching me in this misstep.