National High Five Day: High Fives for Writers

by • April 17, 2014

high five, Grammarly, writingIt’s National High-Five Day, and the Grammarly team wants to take a few minutes to give our community of writers a “high five” for your efforts in finding and correcting five of the most common mistakes in your writing.

Its vs. It’s

Many writers confuse its and it’s when writing, but we can solve this once and for all right now. “It’s” is a contraction and is the short form of “it is” or “it has.” On the other hand, “Its” is a pronoun indicating possession. For example, “The dog has lost its collar.” If you want to check to see if you’re using the correct word, replace “it is” when you see “it’s” and see if it sounds right to you. If it sounds awkward, it is not the correct choice.

The Dangling Participle

A dangling participle is a participle that is usually found at the beginning of a sentence that changes the intended meaning of the sentence based on its position. Essentially, the participle makes it difficult for others to decipher what you mean. For example: “After hanging on the tree for two weeks, my sister brought down some mangoes.” The intended message is not clear due to the position of the word “hanging.”  Surely the writer does not mean the sister hung on the tree for two weeks, but rather that the mangoes hung on the tree for two weeks. The participle “hanging” that is found in the beginning of the sentence is not in the correct location.  Read your sentences clearly to determine if your participles depict the correct meaning. The beginning of a sentence should modify what follows next with the intended meaning or else you get a dangling participle.

Their vs. There vs. They’re

Using “their” in place of “there” or “they’re” is sometimes dismissed as a typo, but it is very important to clarify proper meaning in your writing.

  • “There” is used as a reference and as a pronoun: “There are ten dogs.”
  • “Their” is used as a possessive pronoun: “Their dog ran away.”
  • “They’re” is a contraction meaning “they are”: “They are buying a car.”

Many writers don’t pick up on misuse of these words because word processing software doesn’t pick up the wrong usage. That’s why it is even more important to read – and reread – your work for clarity!

You’re vs. Your

The usage of “you’re” vs. “your” may trip you up in your writing – similar to “their” vs. “there” vs. “they’re.” “You’re” means “you are,” as in “You’re going to have to stop that behavior.”  “Your” is a pronoun used to indicate possession, as in “Your order is ready, sir.” To avoid confusing the two words, think aloud: “You’re” means “you are.” Replace incidences of “you’re” with “you are” and see if you are still saying what you meant to say.
e.g. vs. i.e.

These antiquated abbreviations come in very handy in modern writing, but only if you use them appropriately. The shortened form of Latin’s id est, i.e., means “that is” or “in other words.” It is meant to clarify something by defining it or saying it in a common way. E.g., the short form of exempli gratia, is used when you plan to provide specific examples to back up a claim.

The usage of i.e. vs. e.g. may be more important than you think.

Laura Seidel received a $157,000 settlement from her former employer. Generally, settlements are not taxed if the money is compensation for a physical injury; however, payments received for emotional distress are fully taxable. The settlement agreement described the payments as being for “personal injury (i.e. emotional distress) damages only.” In a subsequent court case, Laura argued that emotional distress was an example of the type of injuries she received. The IRS responded that “i.e.” is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase, id est, which roughly means “that is” or “that is to say.”

The court agreed with the IRS that “i.e.” is a limiting phrase, and Laura was taxed on the money she received. She might have fared better if the settlement agreement had used “e.g.” instead of “i.e.,” as “e.g.” stands for exempli gratia which means “for example.”

The bottom line

The fact is that writing mistakes may occur from time to time, but as you continue to grow as a writer you’ll be more adept at learning from them. Take some time on a regular basis to have your work critiqued by a second set of eyes, and don’t forget to give yourself a high five when you get it right!

Happy National High Five Day!

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