Everyday Tips: Remembering the difference between there, their and they’re

Why is it so hard for people to use these words correctly?

My short answer to that question is a simple matter of time and attention.  We all had to learn this is grade school.  However, in a rush, we might not have time to stop and try to remember the differences between these.  We just keep typing and move on with life.  On social media, there is a general tendency toward sloppiness, I think.  “No one will notice,” or “None of my teachers are my Facebook friends, and it isn’t for a grade.”  People just don’t proofread on Facebook that often.

Well, guess what?  People do notice.  It’s really important, if you want to lend credibility to anything you are writing, to use the proper word.  And these words are not interchangeable.  They each have very different meanings.  Here’s a brief guide with some helpful facts that may assist you in remembering which one to use.

“There” is a place.  “I walked over there to find them.”  And it has the word “here” contained in it, which is also a place.

“Their” is possessive.  “Their dog was barking all night long.”  It contains the letter “I” which can remind you that the word is possessive.

“They’re” is a contraction for “they are.”  “They’re coming over with a bottle of wine.”  This one seems to be less confusing than the other two, but the best way to remember its meaning is by recognizing the apostrophe as a sign of the contraction.  The apostrophe means that two words were pushed together to become one, and that a letter was left out.  Hence, “they are” became “they’re.”

Particularly if you are posting on social media for your business, it’s important to use the correct word.  Not only will you be sure to convey the correct meaning of your message, but those who do know the difference between “there,” “their,” and “they’re” will be more likely to do business with you!

Everyday Tips: Lying vs. Laying (A Battle Royale)

One of my pet peeves is the rampant, incorrect use of “laying.”  Let’s examine the difference between these two words.

Obviously, the definition of “lie” which involves fabrication and/or fibbing does not apply here.

If the lowering of your own body is involved, then “lie” is your word.  You lie down for a nap.  Lie down to sleep.  You lie back in a hammock.  If you have too much to drink and pass out in a bar, you are probably lying down on a sticky floor.  This word applies to others, as well.  For instance, John is lying down under his desk to hide from his supervisor.  Are you lying down for this?  She can’t wait to lie down after eating that meal.  That possum will lie down and pretend to die.

“Lay” is used when it’s the object.  One can lay down a book or a pen.  Lay down the knife, until the children stop running through the kitchen.  And here’s one that we’ve all heard from our English teachers:  Chickens lay eggs.

Here’s a link to a fantastic guide that tackles past tense and gives a more complete explanation:  http://www.chompchomp.com/handouts/irregularrules02.pdf

Here’s the kicker:  one of the past tense forms of the verb to lie is actually lay.  If you didn’t read the link above, go back and do it now, as a refresher course on past tense.

As far as present tense, though, here’s a good test for lay vs. lie:

  1. Am I a chicken? If yes, then I lay eggs.  If no, then proceed to the next question.
  2. Am I putting an object (not my own body) down? If yes, then I may lay it down.  If no, then proceed to the next question.
  3. Am I lowering my own body into a reclining position? If yes, then I am lying down.  If no, then I may be asking myself the wrong set of questions.

This is simple, but confounds so many people.  And the misuse is so rampant, that it’s difficult to be right in a wrong world.  But use “lie” at the correct times, and you will set yourself apart from the crowd.

Pro Tips: Avoid Run-On Sentences

Have you ever read something that exhausted you?  Sometimes a sentence can just go on for too long, containing too much information.  While annoying, that isn’t necessarily a run-on sentence.  A run-on sentence is one that includes two independent clauses that are not properly separated by a conjunction or a semi-colon.  Here are some examples:

A sentence that is too long but is not a run-on:  We finally finished that project that I described to you, even though we had to stay at the office past nine 0’clock and eat Skittles from the vending machine for dinner while holding our feet in the air so the cleaning lady could vacuum under us, but it didn’t turn out as well as we would have liked, since we didn’t have the proper materials or a working printer that would connect to my laptop.

Terrible.  I’m worn out from writing it.  However, it is not a run-on sentence.  Each independent clause is separated by a comma and a conjunction.

Here is a run-on sentence:  We ate hot dogs, they were nasty.

Worse yet, some people leave out the comma:  We ate hot dogs they were nasty.

Correct this by one of a couple of methods.  You may split it into two complete sentences.  You may also use a semi-colon.  A comma and conjunction would also work.

Any of these are acceptable:

We ate hot dogs.  They were nasty.

We ate hot dogs; they were nasty.

We ate hot dogs, but they were nasty.


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