Monthly Grammar Tips: July 2015

Building a brand depends on every point of contact that each employee has with customers, prospects, and partners. And despite being experts within respective disciplines, everyone is still occasionally bedeviled by a common high school nemesis: GRAMMAR! To help with the challenge, Opus sends out weekly “Friday Grammar Notes,” addressing misspellings, misuses, and misnomers in everyday communication. This quickly became the source of much dialogue around the proverbial water cooler, so we decided to make it a recurring feature on our blog. We hope you find it as useful as we do!

SHE versus HER. HE versus HIM.

  • INCORRECT: Her and I talked about the menu and decided to go with the chicken.
  • CORRECT: She and I talked about the menu and decided to go with the chicken.

In this case, SHE is the subject of the sentence (one of the people doing something). This error most commonly occurs when paired up with I. You never hear anyone say Her talked about the menu…, but when you throw in the I, people get confused.

She, he, and I are subjects and always go together. Her, him, and me are objects and are used in combination. Don’t mix subjects with objects.

  • INCORRECT: The invitation came to he and I.
  • CORRECT: The invitation came to him and me.

Here, the subject of the sentence is the invitation, and the pronouns are the objects so we use her, him, and me. An easy way to check yourself is to separate the two people that you’re talking about.
The invitation came to him. The invitation came to me. So… The invitation came to him and me.

If you’re prone to errors when writing emails, try writing in Microsoft Word, which has a great grammar and spell-check tools. Then cut and paste it into your email. And is a great resource when you’ve got questions.

THEY’RE versus THEIR. YOU’RE versus YOUR. IT’S versus ITS. WHO’S versus WHOSE.

You already know that THEY’RE is a contraction for THEY ARE, YOU’RE is a contraction for YOU ARE, and IT’S means IT IS. These are contractions, not possessive pronouns. The alternatives are possessive pronouns: If THEY have a bag of apples, we refer to THEIR apples, not THEY’RE apples.

The situation with IT’S and ITS is a little tougher, because they don’t just sound alike, but they’re spelled alike as well, and the correct usage of ITS (possessive of IT) is counter-intuitive. The issue here is we are used to thinking of apostrophes indicating possession.

  • EXAMPLE: The client’s last name is hard to spell. Jim’s name is much easier.

So when we come to the possessive forms of THEY, YOU, and IT, we reflexively reach for the apostrophe. And we would be wrong, because that apostrophe is also an indicator of contractions, and the contraction apostrophe takes priority over the possessive one.

  • EXAMPLE: It’s obvious when housekeeping has done its job.

IT’S is the contraction for IT IS, and ITS is the possessive pronoun. Personal possessive pronouns never use an apostrophe.

  • CORRECT: hers, ours, yours, theirs, its, whose
  • INCORRECT: her’s our’s, your’s, their’s, it’s, who’s

WHO’S is a contraction for WHO IS and should not be confused with WHOSE.

  • EXAMPLE: We have a new intern who’s starting tomorrow. Whose parking spot is available for her to use?