Sunday, September 05, 2010

Alas, You're "Your"!

There is a disease on the internet. It’s not a virus, but a withering cancer of the English language. I don’t know when it started or who is to blame, but whether it was mommy and daddy demanding t.v. time instead of a bedtime story or the trendy apathy of the nineties bleeding into English class doldrums, it hardly matters. Because our problem is everywhere.

Language is important, and yes, even spelling is important. Correct spelling allows people to read sentences swiftly and without hesitation. Mistakes bog the reader down, forcing them to interpret a sentence instead of actually read it. While the creative centers of the reader’s brain may be lit up like Times Square, that’s not actually a good thing. After all, you want clarity in communication and ease of understanding when you’re telling someone something important, not an interpretive dance starting up in their skull.

So I’m going to tackle the symptom of the disease that’s most prolific: “you’re” versus “your.”

Don’t complain, don’t whine, don’t wiggle in your seat! This is important!

Very simply, many people seem to have problems understanding when to use one or the other. Hogwash. This is easy enough to grasp, and we’re going to go over it together. But first, a diversion.

What is that tiny mark just above? It’s proper name is the apostrophe, which is pronounced ay-poss-trophy.

It’s best to think of the apostrophe as an assassin, a brutal slaughterer of all vowels who goes on bloodthirsty rampages, usually hanging on desperately to the end of a word. Just as “don’t” comes from “do not” (and thus marks the death of the “o” in “not”), or “can’t” is the vicious demise of the “o” in “cannot,” the apostrophe is on the hunt for your vowels, and can’t be stopped!

So why is there a mean old apostrophe in the word “you’re”? Surely it’s not up to it’s old tricks again? Ah, but it is! Because “you’re” means, for our purposes, “you are.” We’re just holding a funeral for the letter “a” with that one.

So let’s use the word “you’re” in a few sentences!

You’re the one responsible for peeing in my cereal.

You’re just going to look at me like that?

You’re a heartless, cereal-peeing soul.

See how easy that was? “You’re” means “YOU ARE,” and you can substitute that in many different circumstances. Go on and try it. I won’t even watch you while you mumble to yourself. I’ll be standing over here looking at this interesting wall hanging instead.

Oh good, you’re back. Excellent.

Now for the second word, “your.” This one is even easier. To wrap it up in a nutshell, it’s possessive. What does that mean? It means that it’s talking about something belonging to the subject “you.”

Examples being:

Your dog ate your kid sister.

I’m kidding, but your sister looks upset.

Oh, your sister’s mad because I peed in her cereal.

You could sit there and list things that belong to someone else all day, but we’d all get bored at that point. So instead, pat yourself on the back and practice. Try writing your own sentences, or texting them to your friends and family. Cull the spread of the dread disease that’s choking communication to an early demise simply by remembering the vicious nature of the little apostrophe assassin. Your colleagues will be grateful for it.

You’ll look a heck of a lot more intelligent, too.

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