Eliminate common mistakes in your writing with these easy-to-remember tips!
A few months before taking the SAT or any other standardized writing test is not the time for you to learn all the rules of grammar. It is, though, a good time for you to conquer the mistakes that you commonly make when writing under pressure.
As a composition teacher and free essay writer, I’ve noticed that students are pretty consistent when it comes to errors in grammar and usage. Here are four common errors explained in the clear, commonsense language (yes, that means minimal grammar-speak).
Four Top Offenders
1. its / it’s
2. there / their / they’re
3. weather / whether
4. less / fewer AND amount/number
ITS versus IT’S
Do you always struggle to remember which one to use? Do you alternate between the two on the chance that half the time you’ll use the right one?
The misuse of these two three-letter words has been causing teachers to mutter four-letter words for centuries.
In grammar-speak, ITS is a possessive pronoun while IT’S is a contraction. “Huh?” you may well ask.
In plain speak, here’s what that means.
ITS shows possession, just like HIS and HER while IT’S is a contraction of IT IS, just as THERE’S is a contraction of THERE IS.
But first, consider HIS
Example: Simon lost HIS bus pass.
In this example, HIS tells us that Simon is the owner (or possessor) of the lost bus pass.
Now apply this rule to ITS.
Example: The dog lost ITS chew toy.
In this example, ITS tells us that the dog is the owner of the lost chew toy.
But first, consider THERE’S
Example: “THERE’S no toilet paper in the bathroom!” Brenda exclaimed.
In this example THERE’S is the contraction for THERE IS. (In her fury, Brenda had no time to say both words, so she contracted them.)
Now apply this rule to IT’S.
Example: “IT’S about time you started replacing the toilet paper when you use up a roll,” she added.
In this example, IT’S is the contraction for IT IS. (Still angry, Brenda continues to use contractions.)
Simple, right? But still, you fret, “I’ll never remember the difference between ITS and IT’S. Well, here’s a cheap and dirty trick. Try substituting HIS. If HIS makes sense in your sentence, then you want ITS (notice that, like HIS, ITS does NOT have an apostrophe). If HIS doesn’t make sense, then you want IT’S.
THEY’RE / THERE / THEIR
Three words. Three meanings. One pronunciation. So how do you know when to use the right one?
First, let’s deal with the easiest of this triumvirate (SAT word alert! Strictly speaking, a triumvirate is a government headed by three people with equal power, but more loosely speaking, it’s any group of three.) Now, back to our program already in progress . . .
THEY’RE is, for most of us, the easiest to remember because the apostrophe is like a tiny punctuation billboard telling us that THEY’RE is a contraction of THEY ARE.
Example: Simon and Kate are desperate for raw fish, and THEY’RE going to have sushi for dinner tonight even if it kills them!
In the above sentence, THEY’RE is a contraction of THEY ARE.
Easy. So now we have to face the confusion between THERE and THEIR while writing great essay paragraphs. We’ll start with THERE.
THERE tells us WHERE something is.
“WHERE did you park the Porsche?” Trust Fund Baby Bootsie asked.
“I parked it over THERE, in the fire lane right in front of the casino,” Trust Fund Baby Gigi answered.
Did you spot the clue that’s hidden in both THERE and WHERE? It’s HERE, another word that tells location.
THERE also functions as a sentence starter.
“THERE are so many people wearing fake Smucci dresses tonight!” Trust Fund Baby Bubbles exclaimed.
Now we’re left with THEIR. A possessive like HIS or YOUR, THEIR shows ownership by two or more people.
The ROCKSTARS hid THEIR passion for stamp collecting from the nosy reporters.
The KITTENS cried until THEIR mother returned from her trip to the litter box.
Hint: There’s a word hidden inside THEIR to remind you that THEIR indicates ownership. The hint word is HEIR, a person who inherits and, therefore, owns something.
WEATHER versus WHETHER
(If you’ve never confused these two words, then good for you! You may move on to a riveting discussion of less and fewer.)
Unless you’re writing about global warming, it’s pretty unlikely that the word WEATHER will come up in your SAT essay. But WHETHER it rains or shines, you will write an essay, and you may need to use WHETHER.
WEATHER, of course, refers to outdoor conditions such as temperature and precipitation.
WHETHER helps us when we speak or write about two alternatives.
Kate the Cat doesn’t know WHETHER to attack the squeaky toy or to take a nap.
So the question is this: how do you remember when to use WHETHER when to use WEATHER?
Here are two hints. Choose the one that works better for you.
WEATHER has only one H while WHETHER has two.
WHETHER begins with the same two letters and same sound as WHY, WHAT, and WHEN, three words that you probably never, ever misspell.
FEWER versus LESS and NUMBER versus AMOUNT
Maybe you don’t even know that there’s a time to use FEWER and a time to use LESS or that the same rule applies to when you use NUMBER and when you use AMOUNT. It’s pretty likely that most of the time you unconsciously get the usage right.
But any English teacher can tell you that not everyone intuitively uses the correct form. So here’s the deal:
In each pair (FEWER/LESS and NUMBER/AMOUNT), one word refers to a countable quantity and the other refers to an uncountable quantity.
Without high-tech equipment, you can not in any way count the atoms of jelly, so you rely only on what you see – an uncountable amount. The jellybeans, though, are easily countable. That’s why fewer describes them.
The rule is the same with NUMBER and AMOUNT.
The NUMBER of jellybeans was stupendous while the AMOUNT of jelly was astonishing.
About the author: John J. Gregg is an experienced writer on essaywriter.nyc where he provides students with an opportunity to get high grades. Besides, He is fond of reading and playing the guitar. By the way, John dreams of traveling a lot and visiting as many countries as possible.