By Sarah-Ann Binning

My brother’s sarcastic yet supportive comment on my last blog post inspired this first grammatical lesson: your and you’re. For some, the difference between “your” and “you’re” has been drilled into our heads, while others can never seem to use them correctly. Does it really matter if you don’t know the difference? Is anyone really going to care if you mix them up?

The answer is, of course, YES!

Say, for example, you were applying for a job and your cover letter started a little something like this. (NOTE: This is a dreadful opening to a cover letter. I would never recommend opening letter like this. But for the sake of this example, please just go with me.) Example: To Whom It May Concern: I am interested in applying for the secretarial intern position with you’re company.

BAM. Your cover letter just went into the garbage. When applying for any position (be it school, job, etc) employers throw away resumes with any spelling errors. If you cannot take the time to make ONE resume error free, why should they hire you? The worst part about the “your/you’re” problem is that spell check won’t catch when you use the incorrect one, only if you spell them wrong. So you have to be extra diligent in your editing.

Honestly, using the incorrect “your/you’re” is embarrassing. Not only can it hurt your employment opportunities, it also will make others think less of you. Just this past week I was reading a note from my boss in our manager logbook. His grammar was, well, atrocious. One of the student managers actually took a red pen and corrected his many mistakes. Front and center of all those mistakes was using “your” instead of “you’re.” When employees half your age are correcting your mistakes, it doesn’t make you look good.

But don’t lose hope. It’s never too late to learn. In fact, I encourage you to learn. Yes, occasionally you’ll mix-up the two words. I understand in the heat of that Facebook wall post, you don’t think about spell check. I’ve fallen victim to the un-proofread wall posts many times. And boy do my friends love to point out my own “your/you’re” errors.

So let’s break this down.

YOUR is a possessive pronoun. Example: Your coat is on the chair.

A more in depth Explanation: What does possessive mean? The coat belongs to you. You posses it. Thus, “your” is possessive.

YOU’RE is a contraction for YOU ARE. Example: When you’re at the store, please pick up some chicken.

When using “your/you’re” I ask one simple question to make sure I’ve used the correct one. Can you substitute “you are” for the word? If the answer is yes, then you want to use YOU’RE. If not, then use YOUR.

While we’re on the subject of “your/you’re”, I’d like to address another issue: UR. While texting lingo is becoming widely popular, I don’t believe you should incorporate it into your everyday communication. Again, it all goes back to professionalism. Practice makes perfect, but it also creates habits. If you use “U” and “UR” in e-mails with friends, it will slowly leak its way into your professional life. My roommate, a reporter for Ohio University’s student-run newspaper, received an e-mail from a PR official from a major corporation in New York. He used “UR.” Seriously? He couldn’t take the time to spell out the word correctly? Is he really that great at communicating with media if he’s using such informal grammar?

So, if you couldn’t already tell “your/you’re” is a pet peeve of mine. Take the time to re-read your work. Taking the time to learn small grammar bits can make a big difference when you’re applying for jobs. But for now, here are some more examples:

Your:

What’s your favorite color?

When is your recital?

She went to your house.

Don’t forget to e-mail your friends.

Get your coat.

You’re:

You’re looking wonderful tonight.

You’re assigned to the late shift.

Sing while you’re dancing.

You’re responsible for him.

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