One of the most common homophone mistakes we all see is the mix-up of those three simple words: there, they're, and their. If you've ever been a victim of this classic blunder, don't worry, we're here to help--as long as you haven't also gotten involved in a land war in Asia. We aren't equipped to help with that outside of our imaginations.
There's a simple trick to remembering which one of those pesky words you need.
Break them down.
Let's start with there. Inside "there" is the word "here." So there, like here, is a location word.
Next up, we have their. Inside you can find an "heir." And being an heir is all about possession--not the demonic kind, however. So their, like heir, is about possession.
Last, we have they're. Any time you have a contraction, remember that the apostrophe is taking the place of a letter and a space. In this case, "they are" turned into "they're." If you're looking at they're and can't remember which usage it's for, eliminate the apostrophe and turn it back into two words and see if "they are" is the usage you wanted.
*Bonus tip: I always double-check the word its/it's this same way. Literally every single time I write the word, because it feels counter-intuitive. It's is a contraction word, short for it is; the apostrophe is NOT to mark possession. Pronouns don't use apostrophes for possession.
Hopefully these quick tips will help you remember which form you want next time you start to wonder whether you're using the right spelling. Happy editing!
Every Wednesday we bring you an edit tip of the day and on Mondays throughout the summer a series of SHOW DON'T TELL workshops!