It’s YOUR Responsibility to Make Sure YOU’RE Using the Correct Word — a Grammar Owl post

“Whooooooose responsibility?” asked the Owl. “Yours,” I said, quickly adding, “Not that you’re doing it incorrectly, Owl.”

You have likely noticed this before, or puzzled over it. It happens all the time. Your is used when you’re is the correct form, or vice versa.

The confusion comes, I think, from the presence of the apostrophe, as well as the fact that both words sound the same.

Sometimes apostrophes indicate possession, as in Beth’s pen or Owl’s talon, and other times apostrophes indicate two words contracted into one. Beth can’t find her pen, and Owl won’t let her see what’s clutched in his talons.

In the case of your and you’re, the apostrophe indicates a contraction. You’re means you are, and the apostrophe takes the place of the a. Your (with no apostrophe in sight) is the one that is a possessive.

You have to go by the sense of the word, and use your memory. If the meaning of the word as used in the sentence is you are, then you spell it you’re. Otherwise, it’s your.

Take another look at the title of this post and the ensuing conversation between the Owl and me.

“It’s your responsibility to make sure you’re using the correct word.”

“Whooooooose responsibility?” asked Owl.

Yours,” I said, quickly adding, “Not that you’re doing it incorrectly.”

These examples show which word is correct, by the meaning of the word. The responsibility belongs to you to make sure you are using the correct word.

If the word answers the question “Who does it belong to?” then use your.

If the word answers the question “Who is?” use you are = you’re.

Note that usually when the apostrophe indicates possession, there is an s following it. However, in this case, yours does NOT have an apostrophe. If you feel yourself on the verge of writing your’s, ask yourself if the context of the sentence means you are or means something belongs to the you of the sentence.

The only time there would be an apostrophe is if it means you are, and you would never say you ares, would you? So leave the apostrophe out. Yours.

And we will sign this,

Yours sincerely,

Beth and the Owl


Using Mentor Texts

As my editing clients could tell you, I often suggest reading mentor texts — recently published books by established writers that can show how others have handled the issues the client is trying to bring to life in his or her manuscript.

Seeing how well-established writers deal with character development, or the building blocks of plot, or story arc, or the use of antagonists and obstacles to the protagonists, can help a new writer think about how they can deal with those same challenges in their own writing.

Reading and analyzing such books can help a writer see what works and what doesn’t in order to hone his or her own writing skills. Not that I’m advocating copying another writer, but there is much to learn from other writers, and this is one way to do it.

Author/educator Marcie Flinchum Atkins talks about mentor texts a lot. She is a firm believer in their worth. Here’s a great guest post on her blog that shows how to use mentor texts.

And here is a link that will get you to all Marcie’s posts on the subject.

Author Carrie Charley Brown has a wonderful series of posts on her blog about mentor texts. Although her focus is picture books, her ideas can be used for any form of writing. Here’s a link to all her posts about mentor texts.

If you write picture books, I would encourage you to participate in ReFoReMo — Reading for Research Month — in March. This is an entire month devoted to working with mentor texts, with regular blog posts such as those I’ve linked to above. The ReFoReMo website can be found here. Watch for news about the 2017 ReFoReMo, and follow the blog in the meantime.

In coming months, on the second Friday, I’ll be posting about what to look for in choosing mentor texts, and how to get the most out of the reading process. I hope you’ll join me for those posts.