Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fraternal Twins & Triplets

Some words I like to call fraternal twins or triplets. They’re not identical. Although they sound the same, they don’t look or mean the same. Use these words with care. Mean the word you type and not its fraternal twin or triplet.

Here are some that come to mind:

Do........Perform an action

Its.......Possessive of it
It’s......Contraction for it is

Your......Possessive of you
You’re....Contraction for you are

To........Preposition - word placed before a noun or pronoun

Their.....Possessive for referring to more than one person or object
There.....A place
They’re...Contraction for they are

Your......Possessive of you
You’re....Contraction for you are
Yore......Referring to a time

If you think of more, please share them in the comment section.

Morgan Mandel


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  1. Hi Morgan,

    I love this! I come across "it's" all the time, when the author's intent is to show possession and NOT to form a contraction of "it is."

    Lynne Truss addressed this in her hilarious book Eats Shoots and Leaves.


  2. How about right and write? My muddle-aged brain and fingers type the wrong word again and again! I must write a post about the dire necessity of editing for authors over 50 because we have age issues in writing that get worse as time passes. Synapse overload, or something....


  3. My worst offense is 'peek', 'peak', and 'pique'. I absolutely must focus when I use them.

    One mix-up that makes me insane is 'then' and 'than' - I can't count the number of times that I'm reading a great article or story and suddenly come across, "The moon shone brighter then a..." or some such statement. And I think, "Then, what?" No! No! No!

  4. I recently discovered my own confusion in dialogue about "yeah" (a form of "yes") and "yea" (a cheer). They don't even sound the same. Yikes!

  5. Well, LJ, they can mean the same and therefore the confusion. Yeas and nays. Damn congressmen always confusing us. Another one of those pronunciation issues is err. Not air, but ur as in urp. And notice how very modernly I am leaving out all the punctuation in that previous sentence? Who says old dawgs can't learn new tricks? Har!

  6. I just thought of something.
    Dew should be in with Do and Due.
    That makes them triplets.

    Morgan Mandel

  7. LOVE this post - I give my students a handout like this every semester because they just CAN'T seem to get the "there," "their," and "they're" triplets...or "your," "you're," and "yore."


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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