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Than Its Not Hard If You're Proofreader Is From Their

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By and large, most of our writers have respectable grammatical sense. Even the best of us have ditzy days, though, and I've noticed more and more little mistakes slipping into posts that can easily be avoided. So here, for your learning (or refreshing) pleasure, is a mini-lesson about contractions.

To begin with, contractions are words with apostrophes. "Don't." "We're." "Sally's."

Forgetting to add the ' to a word can cause it to mean a completely different thing. Equally problematic is the fact that sometimes several words sound the same but mean different things. Some are contractions, others aren't. Here are the two biggest problem sets:

It's/Its, They're/There/Their, Your/You're, Then/Than

Let's start with the Itses.
The word "it's" is a contraction of "it is" or "it has." If you can't substitute either of those pairs of words for the word "it's," you should not use an apostrophe.

Examples: "It's hot outside today." (It is hot)
"It's been nice seeing you." (It has been nice)

The word "its" is possessive. It is the same as "his," "ours," or "theirs." No apostrophe in sight.

Examples: "Its nose was very long." (You can't say "it is nose was big" or "it has nose was big. The nose belongs to It.)
"Don't you think its color is off?" (You can't say "it is color is off" or "it has color is off." The color belongs to It.)

Moving along to the There/their/they're conundrum.

"There" is a location.
"Their" is possessive, suggesting something belongs to several people.
"They're" is a contraction of "they" and "are."

When you write a sentence with one of these words in it, take a moment to think about what you mean. Are you talking about a place? "He's over there." Are you talking about something that belongs to someone? "Their shirts are all dirty." Are you talking about the people themselves? "They're all dirty."

And now for You/You're

"Your" something belonging to you or something on you
i.e. "Your dress is very beautiful" not "You are dress is very beautiful"
"Your nose is red." not "You are nose is red."
"You're" is a contraction of 'you' and 'are'
i.e. "You're late!" or "You're going to be in trouble" or "You're very beautiful."

So do when do you use *then* or *than*?
Remember *then* is temporal... refers to TIME
i.e. "You have to clean your room then you can play"
*than* is used for comparison
i.e. "You are smarter than me."

And remember - the easiest way to avoid these little mistakes it to take a few minutes to reread what you typed before you click submit.

This message has been brought to you by the One Woman Council For Better Grammar.
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