Spell Write!

You’re reading a document, manual or email and you come across a spelling mistake.  Are you like me in that it disrupts your concentration on what you’re reading?  Instead of seeing the sentence as a whole, you start looking at the individual words.  Sometimes I have to re-read the sentence trying not to focus on the incorrect word.

I’m pretty particular, and old school, when it comes to writing and spelling.  I even write my emails in a fairly formal matter, with proper spelling and punctuation.  That’s just who I am.  Some call me traditional.  Some call me anal.  And some call me very anal.  That’s just me.

If this occurred only once in a while I wouldn’t have an issue with it.  I’d just chalk it up to sloppiness.  But I see it time and again.  And certain people make the same mistakes consistently which tells me they don’t know the rules of how to use these quirky words.  So, I figure it’s time for a refresher of grade school spelling and word usage.  Perhaps you already know this stuff, but for those who don’t, please study up and understand why each word is used, don’t just use the same word for each situation or worse yet, take a guess at which one would fit your context.


This isn’t as tricky as it appears.  Sure, they all sound the same, but their meanings are completely different.

There – This word is used to depict direction, opposite of “here,” a state of condition, etc.

1) Let’s go over there.
2) There is no hope.

Their – This word is used for possession.  “They” own something.

1) Their sunglasses were very dark.
2) Did everyone bring their lunches?

They’re – This is a contraction.  Use this word whenever you can replace it with “they are.”

1) They’re going to the show as well.
2) What if they’re not happy?

One final example to tie them all together:

They’re going there with their costumes on.

You need to remember one little trick to figure out which one to use here.  If you can replace the this word with “it is” or “it has” then use “it’s.”

Its – This word is used for possession.  The object owns something.

1) Its eyes were black.
2) The dog lost its ball.

It’s – This is a contraction.  It takes the place of “it is” or “it has.”

1) It’s a shame that they can’t be here today.
2) it’s been a long time since we saw the sun.

Another simple rule allows you to figure out which one of these two words to use.

Too – When you can replace this word with “as well” or “also,” then put an extra “o” on the end.  “Too is spelled like to and put another o on it also”

1) I hope they can win the game too.
2) She wasn’t too pleased with his behaviour.

To – This is the generic word.  When the rule for “too” doesn’t apply, use “to.”

1) Let’s go to the store.
2) He seemed alright after he came to.

I see this one a lot.  But, like its and it’s, it’s easily figured out.

You’re – This is a contraction.  If you can replace this word with “you are.”

1) You’re a fantastic guitar player.
2) I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Your – This word is used for possession.

1) Have you sold your car yet?
2) Your mom called this morning.

I’ve never seen these two mixed up with the word “yore” however.



So now that you’re up to speed with how to properly use this confusing vocabulary, take this little quiz to test out your understanding.

Questions (answers are below):

  1. This is _____ (there / their / they’re) first attempt at solving the problem.
  2. I can’t believe _____ (you’re / your) going to visit her again.
  3. ____ (Too / To) bad it’s not going to be warm out on Saturday.
  4. ____ (There / Their / They’re) seems ____ (too / to) be an issue with the transmission.
  5. But _____ (there / their / they’re) supposed to be green and white.
  6. The tree has lost ___ (it’s / its) bark.
  7. ___ (It’s / Its) cold out side so do up ____ (you’re / your) jacket!
  8. Look at the kids trying to get ____ (there / their / they’re) mittens on.
  9. I can’t sleep even though ___ (it’s / its) late!
  10. This orange is way ___ (too / to) sour.





  1. their
  2. you’re
  3. Too
  4. There, to
  5. they’re
  6. its
  7. It’s, your
  8. their
  9. it’s
  10. too

About brianwawryk
PMP and Prince2 certified project manager.

One Response to Spell Write!

  1. Barbara says:

    I completely agree and still hang on to my Elements of Style!

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