I received a press release this week with several grammar mistakes. Unfortunately, this is a quick way to reduce your public reputation. You don’t want to be known as the organization or company with poor professional and business communication skills. This is especially true if you’re in the business of gaining trust from the public.
In this blog post, we’re going to talk about five common grammar mistakes in professional documents. I just want to mention that I am not a grammar or English language expert. However, as a journalist I have to understand grammar and usage. That said, I’ve forced myself to learn about it. If you write anything for the public, I urge you to also learn about grammar and usage. The following examples will show mistakes, corrections, and examples. For added fun (as if grammar isn’t fun enough) you may notice a furry theme.
1. you're vs. your
You’re and your may sound the same, yet when written, they are very different.
You’re is a contraction for “you are”
Example: You’re a good dog.
Your is a possessive adjective describing, well… possession.
Example: That is your tennis ball.
2. their, they're, there
These three words often get confused because they sound the same.
Similar to you’re and your… once written, they have different meanings.
Their is a possessive pronoun, meaning… again… possession
Example: Rosie is their dog.
They’re is a contraction for “they are” or “they were”
Example: They’re thinking about adopting a dog.
There is a pronoun and adverb depending on the use.
The adverb describes a location and the pronoun introduces a sentence.
Adverb example: The dog is over there.
Pronoun example: There is a dog looking for its forever home.
3. its vs. it's
Did you happen to catch in my sentence above that the dog is looking for its forever home? Its vs. it's can be confusing too.
Its is a possessive determiner, meaning... yep, you guessed it… possession
Example: The dog is looking for its toy.
It’s is a contraction for “it is” or “it has”
Example: It’s a beautiful day to take the dog for a walk.
4. their vs. its
We already tackled it’s vs. its and their, they’re, there.
So, let’s explain the difference of usage between the two possessive pronouns.
Their is a plural pronoun. Use this when the possessive is plural.
Example: These puppies love their toys.
Its is a singular pronoun. Use this when the possessive is singular.
Example: This puppy loves its toys.
Easy enough, right? Okay, here’s where it gets a little tricky.
A company is considered a collective noun.
This means the company is singular, even though it represents a group.
Incorrect: The Humane Society is looking to increase their staff.
Correct:The Humane Society is looking to increase its staff.
5. who vs. that
While on the topic of pronoun references, let’s talk about who and that.
Who refers to people.
Example: Jane Smith is the organizer who started the animal rescue initiative.
That refers to groups, animals, and things.
Example: The dog that is wagging its tail is a sweetheart.
Again, I am not an expert.
If you have further grammar and usage questions, check out these sites:
What are some of your grammar pet peeves? Feel free to share in the comments!
Maria Satira is a full-time communications director, small business owner, blogger, freelance writer, and content creator. She loves sarcasm, rescue dogs, and red wine. She despises bland food, poor grammar, and litterbugs.