Common Writing Mistakes

I'm no prize in the grammar department, but there are still a few things that bug me when I see them.
Being a Canadian with an American publisher can make me a tad crazy as we spell many common words differently: favourite, colour, neighbour, etc.

It's the other stuff that gets to me. Such as...

it’s verses its

A common mistake that drives me batty. So basic, but even writers seem to forget this from time to time. ‘It's’ is a contraction of 'it is' or ‘it has’. So it doesn't make sense to say "it's coat was smooth as silk" now would it. Or "its cold in here" ‘Its’ is a possessive pronoun. It helps to say it in your head as you write. Are you trying to say ‘it is’ with your ‘it’s’? If it doesn’t sound right, it probably should be ‘its’.

their, there, they’re

I think this one bugs me the most, but it’s an easy mistake to make when you’re writing and not paying attention. ‘Their’ refers to ownership, a plural possessive pronoun. "They took their winnings and ran." “Their children”, “their feelings”, “their dinner”. 'There' usually refers to a location (“look over there”) or as a pronoun (“there is no love”).
‘They’re’ is a contraction for ‘they are’. So, the three are all different, but are commonly interchanged during writing, either because the writer is unaware of the difference or just didn’t pay attention. Proof reading is so important.

you’re verses your


This one is annoying to see and common place. Again, it helps to say what you’re trying to write in your head before you put it down on paper or keyboard. ‘You’re’ is a contraction of ‘you are’. “You’re very cute”. ‘Your’ is a possessive pronoun (“your cat”, “your business”, etc.)


effect verses affect


This one can be tough. Try to remember that ‘affect’ is a verb and ‘effect’ is a noun. “The effect from the explosion was devastating.” “Speaking two languages will affect your future career.”

loose verses lose


No, these are not the same. Loose refers to ill fitting, not tight. Lose refers to losing something, not winning.

than verses then

Tricky one! ‘Than’ is used to compare. “We learned more on the field than in the classroom.”, “Bob is bigger than Rick.” ‘Then’ is usually used in a sequence of events or to show time passing. “We studied the notes, and then we took the exam.”


two, too, to

Ok, two is a number. I think it’s ‘too’ verses ‘to’ that gives people the most trouble. Too (synonym for also) refers to ‘too much of something’. “There were too many apples in the basket.”, “You put too much sugar in my tea.” ‘To’ is used in many ways. “She walked to the store.”, “The pound key is next to the zero.”

desert verses dessert

Silly one, but still deserves a mention. A 'desert' is hot and dry. A 'dessert' is somthing yummy to eat after dinner.


Hope this helps a little bit. Again, I’m SO NOT a grammar expert, quite the opposite. But, knowing a few basics can help a lot with editing later on.

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