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Typos are a way of life and even reviewing your own work can be tricky since you tend to read what you meant to say rather than what you actually said. Then, there is an entirely different kind of writing goofs – these aren’t accidents from your finger slipping on the keyboard. These are blatant errors and if you’re making them, you’re getting on my nerves. Okay, that’s harsh, you’re not really on my nerves. But if I were to have a bad day, you might be!

 It’s and Its

Yes, English is a confusing language. Yes, we have endless exceptions to the rules. But this is one exception that should be straight forward – its. When you make a contraction or a possessive, you add an apostrophe. “Should not” becomes “Shouldn’t.” “The chair of the girl” becomes “Girl’s chair.”

But, when it comes to the word “it” however, the rules change, and it’s actually supposed to make it easier to understand the word when you use the apostrophe correctly. “It is” rightly becomes “it’s.” That’s easy enough. Something that belongs to “it”, however, is not “it’s.” The proper usage would be “its”, as in “The cat licked its tail.”  That’s right – no apostrophe to show possession. Please stop adding one. It’s annoying.

 Advice and Advise

I’m not sure why these are mixed up so often, but then I’m an English teacher, so what do I know? “Advice” is a noun – it’s something you’re offering to other people. “Let me give you some advice.” You can give it away. The process of giving away that advice, however, is to “advise.”

“Advise” is a verb – it’s an action word. You can’t give anyone “advise”, but you can “advise” them, much like a resident advisor would in the old college dorm. When you ADVISE you’re offering ADVICE. Simple. It’s probably just a pet peeve, but these words drive me bonkers when I see them misused.

 Effect and Affect

Finally, the words that seem to boggle the mind of the average bear. And I’ll readily admit I have to think about them each time I use them, too. Shhhh…don’t tell, it will spoil my rep around here.

Effect is like a special effect. It’s something happening – you can see it, hear it, smell it the gunpowder when it goes off.

Affect is the response to something happening around you. How does it affect you?

This is very tricky since the two are similar in meaning as well as spelling, much like advice and advise, but there you go. Special EFFECTS may AFFECT you adversely. If you don’t like my memory tool, feel free to make up one of your own, assuming you don’t have one already!

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Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.