Imagine my embarrassment. . .

3 contractions commonly misused in writingI sent out an e-mail message last week. Perhaps, you received it.

Did you notice anything wrong in the subject line?

It read: “Are you ready to charge what your worth this year?”

Notice the error yet? Well, obviously, I didn’t catch it before I pushed the “send” key. Off it went into cyberspace – typo and all.

Imagine my embarrassment when I received an opt-out request and the reason provided was “Use of ‘your’ when it should have been ‘you’re’ in an e-mail subject line.”

She was right. I had missed a classic error often made by others and my face turned red when I read her message. However, I’m grateful because it also prompted this blog about contractions and how they’re commonly misused.

Here are three to keep in mind next time you’re writing your next blog, e-mail, or any other form of written communication:

1. YOUR vs. YOU’RE:
“Your” means “of or relating to you or yourself.” For instance, “What is your time worth?”

“You’re” is plain and simple – it means “you are.” In other words, “Are you ready to charge what you’re worth this year?”

2. ITS vs. IT’S:

“Its” is used to indicate possession or the recipient of an action such as “The dog was wagging its tail.”

”It’s” means “it is” or “it has.” So, “It’s time to take the dog for a walk.”


“There” means “in or at that place,” “to, into or toward that place,” or “that place or point,” For instance, “Let’s sit over there,” “I flew over there on an airplane,” or “When they saw the flames, they got out of there fast.”

“Their” is used to indicate possession. “They were upset to learn that the airline lost their luggage.”

“They’re” means “they are.” So, “They’re going to leave for the airport shortly to catch their plane.”

Did you ever send out a message only to discover a typo after you sent it out? Were you embarrassed?

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below. I’d love to hear from you.

Source: Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary, Berkley Books, New York.

Debra Jason

Marketing & writing with heart, not hype at at The Write Direction
A recipient of the “Creative Person of the Year” award, Debra educates and empowers creative solopreneurs and enthusiastic business owners to create a lifestyle business that provides them with the flexibility, fun and freedom to do what they love. She also inspires you to communicate your marketing message in a way that captivates and converts your prospects into loyal, raving fans - even if you have been struggling with how to transform your ideas into words in the past.


  1. Great reminders, Debra. It’s those little things that like to trip us up. 🙂
    Michelle Shaeffer recently posted…15 Easy Ways Your Business Can Go Earth FriendlyMy Profile

    • You’re right @Michelle. Sometimes, even when we know the correct usage, honest little mistakes may get by us even after we’ve read and re-read the content. Then, oops, someone else takes a fresh look and points out the error. Just yesterday, I received 3 different e-mails, each one had a small typo in it somewhere in the message. Guess we’re all only human.

  2. Typos happen. Something to feel embarrassed about, for sure — but they can happen, and it’s okay.
    These three mistakes, on the other hand, are not “typos.” I’m not referring to your subject line. I’m referring to the thousands of times I’ve seen them misspelled.
    It’s a common occurrence nowadays — it’s not caring to understand what you’re writing (again, not you specifically!)
    As English is a foreign language for me, I was taught these differences (its/it’s, etc) in a thorough and analytical manner. I just can’t believe sometimes how often I see native speakers getting confused over these!
    Eleni Poulakou recently posted…“Grámmata” (Letters) Beach on Syros IslandMy Profile

    • @Eleni, while the 3 pairings in the blog are words commonly misused, sometimes people use one vs. the other simply by mistake.
      One rule I often suggest when people write and get confused about “it’s,” “you’re” or “they’re”, is to read the sentence aloud and substitute “it is, “you are,” or “they are.” It then often becomes clear. For instance, if you read “The dog wagged it’s tail” out loud and substitued “it is”, the sentence would read “The dog wagged it is tail.” Then, the writer would realize (I hope) that “its” should have been used not “it’s”. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. We all make mistakes – please don’t feel embarrassed.
    Another point I’d like to make, a little off topic but I think too many of us depend too much on spell check to find errors. This is a typo that wouldn’t be picked up by spell check.
    As for your blog post, I remember how long it took me to learn about contractions when I was in elementary school. English is not an easy language to learn, even by native speakers like me.
    Finally, I am amazed at is the number of times I see “you” instead of “your” in email – and even in letters I read at work. Another something that would not be picked up by spell check.
    Alana ( recently posted…Here’s The ThingMy Profile

    • You’re right @Alana. Sometimes people rely on spell check and it doesn’t point out words that are misused, but spelled correctly. That’s when a fresh pair of eyes (i.e. a friend, a colleague, etc.) can come in handy. Thanks!

  4. I’ve made my share of errors with the pairs you mention … though I do know the difference.

    The most embarrassing typo I ever made, however, was something else entirely. In the midst of a tense email discussion about a policy for the Christian youth ministry I work with, I sent a group response to my colleagues and left the “o” off of “hello”. Talk about red-faced!

    Great post!
    Melinda recently posted…Deeply involved…My Profile

    • OMG! @Melinda, I can see how red your face must’ve been with that typo. However, I’m guessing you managed to explain it and most people smiled when they realized your honest mistake. Didn’t they?

  5. Hi Debra – sometimes these typos are a result of just typing way too fast. Instead of the your/you’re boo boo, as I’m swiftly typing the next word, I always seem to skip right over the “r” in your. So you’ll see a lot of “Open you eyes!” and “Don’t forget you phone.” In my writing.
    Maybe I’m too easy going because I can tolerate a few typos so that wouldn’t be a reason I’d unsubscribe from you list!


    Gwen Tanner recently posted…Spammer Attack Results in Valuable InfoMy Profile

    • Thanks @Gwen. I know just what you mean. Sometimes my fingers fly over the keyboard so fast that, when it’s an e-mail, I end up hitting the “send” key before I even know what hit me. LOL. Then it’s “oops, I can’t believe I did that.” I’m glad you wouldn’t unsubscribe and luckily, other than that one person, no one else who received my message unsubscribed either.

  6. Whenever I see major goofs on an email subject line, I may cringe, I may send a note to bring it to the writer’s attention but I never forget my very first published article in my high school newspaper. I was reviewing a movie and had my first published review. The headline was “An Outsanding Western Tale”. My journalism teacher said I did a nice job on the article but the headline “looked wrong.” She wanted me to discovery my mistake. Sure enough, it was spelled wrong but what was worse – I never mentioned the name of the movie. I can’t tell you how many letters to the editor we got over that one. The bonus was: we had readers! And all of them wanted to know that the name of the movie was Little Big Man.

    Rusty LaGrange

    • Thanks Rusty.
      You never know when a little error will bring big results. Sounds like you piqued the interest of many and created an interactive piece by having readers write in asking which movie you were referring to. It could have even been turned into a contest where they had to guess the title themselves! LOL. Thanks again. ~Debra

  7. Debra, I love receiving your email newsletters. Always helpful information, reading your last one led me to this post and I appreciate the re-training! We all need a little reminder sometimes, don’t we? Like you mentioned above, sometimes we still miss the errors after proofing multiple times and need a fresh set of eyes on it. Too bad we all ‘judge’ each other when the errors occur as well. You know? I always have a hard time with ‘ensure’ and ‘insure’ – then again maybe they’re interchangeable? 🙂
    Dana recently posted…Common Mistakes When Hiring a Moving Company: Part 2My Profile

    • Thanks Dana. “Ensure” is used when you mean you want to make certain something happen. “Insure” means protecting one’s self against risk by way of an insurance policy. Hope that helps you in the future. Greatly appreciate your comments. ~Debra

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