Some helpful stuff copied from a thread started By Richard Bennett.

their, there, they’re

One people often get wrong is “their, there, they’re”.
I don’t know if there are any tricks to remember this, but I just do:

  • If it can be replaced by “they are” use “they’re”
  • If it belongs to someone use “their”
  • If it points to a place somewhere, use “there”.

it’s its without an apostrophe

The confusing thing here is that an ‘ is used to indicate possessive for some nouns. For instance “the trees’ branches were gnarly”, this is not the case for its though.

  • When used to as “it is” , you should write it’s.
  • When used like “his”, you should write its.

A visual aid


you’re a numpty

One that really pees me off because I see it daily is the “your/you’re”. Your = belonging to you. You’re = You are. “You’re a numpty”, not “your a numpty”)
Dodgy apostrophes just bug me in general but it’s no surprise people are confused because they’re bloody everywhere! I passed an Arnold Clarke earlier offering: “New shape Micra’s” (“New shape Micra is” or “belonging to a new shape Micra” – eh? IT DOESN’T NEED A BLOOMIN’ APOSTROPHE!!)

  • Its – belonging to it (the dog wags its tail)
  • It’s – it is/was (it’s a nice day)
  • Johns – more than one John (the two Johns had matching jumpers)
  • John’s – belonging to John (John’s jumper was blue) or John is/has/was (John’s wearing his jumper)
  • Johns’ – belonging to more than one John (the Johns’ jumpers were made of wool)

– Jaqueline Summers

envelopes or standing still

For stationery and stationary:
E in envelope, so stationery, and A in stand, so stationary.

The Campaign for Plain English does a basic Business English/Grammar course for about £20 online. http://www.plainenglishtraining.co.uk/


one collar two socks

My comment is this: if you [1] know that spelling and grammar are not your forte, then why not get someone else to check it? I wouldn’t dream of putting a colour scheme of my own devising on a public website unchecked – because I know that there’s lots of people lots better than me at that sort of thing. I don’t think you necessarily [2] need to employ a professional”. Just find someone that can do it.

[1] That’s “you” as in “one”, obviously.
[2] “one collar, two socks”.

Dom Latter

To lose too loose a grip

The thing that annoys me most is people confusing loose (‘not tight’) and lose (‘to mislay’)

Nick Grimshaw

Which Witch is that?

Using ‘which’ instead of ‘that’.
The correct usage is:

  • John’s school, which is called St. Mary’s College, is the largest in the city.
  • The school that is the largest in the city is called St. Mary’s College.

Basically, you use ‘which’ if you can add the phrase ‘by the way’ after it, and the sentence still makes sense.

Technically, ‘which’ is not inclusive. That is it tells us something about the school we are discussing, but only to provide a piece of additional, non-vital information. It is an aside, or extra piece of information that isn’t really important and only mentioned in passing. ‘That’, however, is inclusive, and tells us something specific. In our example we ask which of the many schools is the largest. The answer is St. Mary’s.

Andy Warwick

Can I? May I?

Me: “Can I climb Mount Everest?”
Tensing Norgay: “I don’t know. Can you?”

Me: “May I climb Mount Everest”?
Tensing Norgay: “If you have obtained a climbing permit, then you may”

freelance proof readers:

Kathy Evans

http://www.vendetta.co.uk – small projects (eg theses, small websites and dissertations)

http://www.londoneditors.co.uk – large projects