And Then You Go And Spoil it All …

22 May

You’ve found an article or comment on the interweb and you have an opinion you want to share and it’s a good opinion, so you get it down, you work through your points, you explain your position and how you got there, it’s great, it’s fab, it’s sensible and coherent and then … and then you go and spoil it all by writing “their” instead of “there”.

Now, when someone reads your comment their eye will be drawn inexorably to the mistake and your point will be lost as they think “Poor illiterate fool.”

I’m not perfect (although I like to think I’m pretty damn close) and I make the odd typo too, I also have a somewhat nebulous relationship with the humble comma but this, this is beyond the pale.  It’s not as if it should be a surprise to anyone, there are literally thousands of articles and blogs strewn across the internet complaining about these same few things:

  • You’re/Your – “You’re” is a contraction of “you are”, “your” is the possessive of you.
  • They’re/Their/There – “They’re” is a contraction of “they are”, “their” is the possessive of “they”, “there” is the opposite of “here”.
  • Loser/Looser – A “loser” is someone who has lost and it’s a noun.  “Looser” means “more loose”, it’s a comparative.
  • The Ellipsis – this is series of three (count them, THREE) dots to indicate an omission.  An ellipsis is not 17 commas.
  • Random Capitalisation – Proper nouns (and often headings) are capitalised.  Capitalising Words almost Randomly In A Sentence is just Weird.
  • Multiple Exclamation Marks – You only need one.  Really!!!  Unless you want to appear a bit mad, not a good sort of mad either.
  • Commas – These are used to denote lists or sub clauses.
  • The Grocer’s Apostrophe –  Apostrophes denote omission of letters or possession.  You don’t need them to denote plurals (although in Dutch you do, but this isn’t Dutch).

To make this all worse they seem to occur more often with people whose first language is English.  More annoyingly for me, as an Englishman in Ireland, I also have to endure Irish people claiming that the Irish have a better grasp of the language than the English do then, as a guest in their country, I have to sit and watch them slaughtering said language.

So, take a moment before you post, read back over what you’ve written, copy it into word (or equivalent) hit F7 and spell check it, if your point is good and worth making isn’t it worth making well?


Pointed out by others:

Been/Being – Never encountered it myself, but hey ho.

Dropping apostrophe in contractions “couldnt”, “wouldnt”, “isnt”.


Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Commentariat


Tags: ,

9 responses to “And Then You Go And Spoil it All …

  1. saoili

    May 22, 2012 at 11:55 am

    I was on a wedding website yesterday. I found this sentence. It hurt:
    “Some couples like the idea of greeting there guests as the arrive, ( Although others feel that it is a bit to formal) and greeting 100 plus guest can be a bit time consuming. ”

    It was, otherwise, a very good website. I also found an indication later on that that’s just how they think that ‘their’ is spelled. I wasn’t sure whether that made it better or not. And obviously, it didn’t help with the other five issues with the sentence.

  2. kargosh

    May 22, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Couldnt agree moar.

  3. Nix

    August 7, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Damocles, just read your blog having been sent here from the Am of a similar mindset while acknowledging that not everyone else is. Have you considered including the “should of/would of” mistake frequently seen online? People don’t seem to realise that they’re supposed to be saying should’ve (as in should have)

  4. Rob (@rob_rusk)

    August 7, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I am noticing your usage of double-spacing after full-stops. This is arguably redundant in this day and age… this form goes back to type-writers and the use of fixed-width fonts thereon. These days modern font kerning takes care of this and the double-space after the period is overdone and is every bit as distracting as a misplaced comma, or some other poor selection of spelling.. perhaps the moreso since it is knowingly informed by a misplaced sense of correctness 🙂

    • Damocles

      August 7, 2012 at 11:46 am

      Possibly because I learned to type using a typewriter.

      I know it annoys some people, but it’s not wrong per se. It’s a style choice.

    • saoili

      August 7, 2012 at 11:56 am

      Actually, that’s a myth. Yes, double spacing goes back to typewriters, but it was nothing to do with fixed-width fonts. Double spacing was the way of implementing the earlier standard of a wider space after a full stop. The modern standard is one space, but double spacing is just (and still) the best way to implement the original standard. Fonts do not, as is commonly believed, allow for this extra space. The font has no way to tell the difference between a full stop at the end of a sentence and other uses of that symbol, e.g. in an abbreviation. I wrote a blog post on this the other day:

    • saoili

      August 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      Also, I’m pretty sure it’s ‘full stop’ not ‘full-stop’. While we’re at it 🙂

  5. Rob (@rob_rusk)

    August 7, 2012 at 11:54 am

    I learned to type on a type-writer.. that’s how I know what you’re doing :o)

    But in all seriousness, MS Word actually does one of those wobbly green lines when you do it; and academic papers are dropping marks for it these days too.


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