Tag Archives: Grammar

The Best Infographic Ever on 15 Common Grammar Mistakes

I know, grammar is nobody’s favourite topic. Most people probably never studied it at school (not their fault, ok), and often we don’t really care what’s right and what’s wrong as long as our message gets across. Fine.

The point is, however, that the way we write says a lot about the type of person we are. In my view, this is particularly true in academia, and for anyone who writes in a (semi-)professional way.

Say, for example, you are writing a thesis. If you cannot be bothered to check that your grammar is right, what does it say about the quality of everything else you have put down there? Can people trust that your results are correct? Or should they wonder whether you have applied the same level of carelessness in your numbers too?

Interestingly, I have found that most common grammar mistakes are very easy to spot and to correct. I have been mulling for a while about creating a list of the 10 most common mistakes and give it away as a freebie (yes, one of those free gifts you get in exchange of your email). Well, I haven’t. Instead, I have come across this fantastic Infographic from one of my favourite blogs of all time: Copyblogger. And I thought this was just too good not to share!

So here it is. Make sure you come back here often and revisit it every time you are in doubt whether you should write its or it’s, their or they’re. Better even, print the infographic and post it where you can see it well and often enough. Oh, and by the way, if you like it, please  share it further. You know how. The buttons are below.

Happy writing! 🙂

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

PS Do you have other juicy mistakes you often come across? Let us know about them and share them with us!

It’s its, isn’t it?

Ok, let’s get this right straight away.

it’s = it is

its = of it

Simple, isn’t it? Yes. Well… actually not. Otherwise, why would so many people (including native speakers!) get it wrong so often by writing its when they mean it’s and it’s when they mean its? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen this mistake in emails, blogs, scripts, reports, theses, public articles, official documents, advertising material, magazines, newspapers, websites, you name it. Sadly, it is not (it’s not) uncommon in academia either.

Whenever I discuss the issue with a native speaker, the answer is always the same: we don’t get taught English grammar in this country. Fair enough! (sad, actually). But then, as an academic, I think it is important to write well, ideally without grammar mistakes, and this is not a difficult one to get right. So, I started wondering what causes the confusion and how to avoid it. And here is my answer.

Saxon genitive.

A quick look on Wikipedia will reveal that In English language teaching, the term “Saxon genitive” is used to associate the possessive use of the apostrophe (the commonly-termed “apostrophe s”) with the historical origin in Old English (in older scholarship known as Anglo-Saxon) of the morpheme that it represents. The Saxon genitive is one of the ways in modern English of forming a genitive construction, along with the preposition “of”.

Ok, this may sound arabic to some, so let me give you an example.

“This is the car of Mary” becomes, using the Saxon genitive, “this is Mary’s car”. Likewise, “the sister of Paul” becomes “Paul’s sister”. So far so good. I bet nobody gets this wrong.

Now consider the following: “this is the car of Mary” and change it to “this is her car”. Or, “the sister of Paul” and change it to “his sister”. Would you ever dream of writing: “this is her’s car” or “his’s sister”? I hope your answer will be a loud, convinced, resounding NO.


When we write “his” what we mean is “of + male name” and when we write “her” we mean “of + female name”. Now, the same holds true for its, except it refers to a neutral object or animal, and so it means “of it”. Consider the following: “the title of this post” would become “this post’s title” or – you will have guessed! – “its title”. Well done!

On the other hand, if I say “the title of this post is” … gosh, I wish I had chosen a different title now! Ok, let me give you a different example. If I say “the book is on the table” and I want to use a pronoun for “the book”, then I’ll write “it (the book) is on the table” or “it’s on the table”. Can you see the difference with the previous example? In this case, the “apostrophe s” in “it’s” has nothing to do with the Saxon genitive, but it simply is a contracted form of “it is“, much the same as when you write “I’m” when you mean “I am” or “you’re” when you mean “you are” (though you bet I have also seen “your” in this case too! deep horror).

Clear? I hope so.

Now, every time you are in doubt whether you should write it’s or its, pause for a moment and ask yourself: do I mean “of it” or do I mean “it is“? And remember:

it’s = it is 

its = of it

I am sure you’ll never get it wrong again.

PS And if you always got it right in the first place, just spread the word. Share this post, like it, tweet it or re-tweet it, send it to your Facebook friends, or post it on Linked-in. Even if it makes the difference for just one person, the time to write it will have been well spent.

PPS Would you imagine a whole blog being devoted to Apostrophe Abuse? No way!? Then take a look here. The fun is guaranteed! 🙂