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Homonyms (words that sound alike) are responsible for many of the most common grammar mistakes and the “There/Their/They’re” conundrum has tripped up almost everyone at some point. “There” refers to a place. “Their” is the possessive adjective, used before a noun. “They’re” is the contraction of “they are.” Here’s all of them in one sentence:

They’re not happy that their drink order is still sitting on the bar over there.”


“Affect” is the verb meaning “to change or influence” while “effect” is the noun indicating that a change has occurred. The part that confuses most writers is the fact that the past participle of “effect” is also a verb, meaning to “produce or bring about.” Check out the difference:

The board of directors was so profoundly affected by the advocate’s speech that they effected changes to the laws immediately.”

Yep, this can be a tough one to get right.

 Anything with a Semicolon

The semicolon is the most widely abused punctuation mark in the English language. In its most simple form, the semicolon is used to link two related independent clauses together in one sentence. For example:

Correct: “Mark was obsessed with his hair; he used more styling products than his wife.”

While these two clauses could technically stand on their own, a writer might opt for a semicolon stylistically rather than breaking them into two sentences with a period. The big no-no comes when writers stick a conjunction in there right along with the semicolon:

Incorrect: “Mark was obsessed with his hair; and he used more styling products than his wife.”

Semicolons are also commonly misused in place of commas because both can be used when a writer is making lists. But commas can lead to the nasty “comma splice” (we’ll talk about that next) and sometimes semicolons are the only cure. Check out how beautifully semicolons save this potentially disastrous sentence:

Greg cooked a three course meal which included an endive salad, his personal favourite; a pot roast, garnished with potatoes and carrots; and a homemade crème brûlée, crafted with his personal culinary blowtorch tool.”

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