Grammar tips . . .

It’s easy to put it’s
in its place

It is likely the most mishandled of all pronouns, yet it’s dead simple to get it right. It’s means it is, as well as it has (as in it’s been a long time since we last met). Both uses are contractions. Otherwise use the possessive pronoun: every dog has its day.

Why is I incorrect sometimes, even when it sounds OK? (Kurt bought ice cream cones for Yuri and I.)

When should you use whose and when who’s? Who or whom? Me or myself?

Discover how you can sharpen your use of PRONOUNS.

Lie and lay: How well
do you know them?

Do you become apoplectic when someone says he had been laying down (for a nap or whatever)? Or are you a bit confused yourself about lie and lay?

Do you know the past tense of forecast? plead? shrink? wake? FTP?

You'll find more than 200 irregular verbs in our VERBS section.

"Snapped-together" words

Setup or set up?

Layoff or lay off?

Often, words are "snapped together" when they should be left separate. Here are some examples:

•A FileMaker Pro file can be setup on a network so that others can access the file at the same time.

•The strategy is an especially friendly way for [brokerage and law] firms to layoff partners and managing directors.

Setup should be set up and layoff should be lay off.

Each of the snapped-together words is legitimate in its place but as a noun (not verb and adverb). Examples:

•Do you think this setup will work?

•The layoff affected several hundred workers.

Snapped-together words and much more in

Welcome to

No matter what your level of English language skills,

UpWORDly Mobile is here for you. Most of us are pretty loose in applying the rules to our everyday conversations, but we know we need more-structured, formal English for our business websites, documents and other written communications. When you have a point to make, a message to get across, you want to have a grip on grammar.

It’s not helpful to be a grammar snob or language Nazi. Many people get along very well with minimal language skills. But for those people who wish to elevate their grammar and writing skills, UpWORDly Mobile is a rich resource.

George Pearson
Editor, UpWORDly Mobile


Not to be too personal, but do you know where your hyphens belong?

This claim was printed on the front of a bag of Wee-Wee disposable diapers for pets:

No leak protection. Hmmm. Then why would anyone want to buy them?                                                                                                                                                    Do you suppose the manufacturer meant to say No-leak protection? (Thanks to the back page of Consumer Reports for that one.)

A birth announcement:

Caleb will be the third, fourth generation baby on Allen Road at Kirby Falls this summer. [A comma doesn't work here, but a hyphen does: Caleb will be the third fourth-generation baby on Allen Road at Kirby Falls this summer.]

Do hyphenate . . .

--compound adjectives: second-best time, five-speed transmission, fourth-generation baby (see above) 

--fractions: one-half, three-fifths

--titles with vice: vice-president, vice-chairman

--to avoid confusion: see no-leak example above; also, re-sign when it means to sign again


George Pearson: writer and editor

Learn more  about my plain language writing and editing service. 

Is your organization’s digital and print content as clear and effective as it can be?

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Confusing word pairs

Affect or effect?

Comprise or compose?

Flaunt or flout?

Imply or infer?

Could you spot the misused word in each of the sentences below?

It's the job of the editor to reign in the director sometimes, to tell them when they're going too far. Reign (hold royal office) should have been rein (to check or guide by pulling on reins).

The predominate influence of nature is reflected in the Arts & Crafts colour palette, with all shades of muted green playing a dominate role. Predominate is a verb; so is dominate. Predominant and dominant are adjectives and the correct choice for this sentence.

TransCanada Corp's torturous effort to win approval for its $7.6 billion Keystone XL pipeline has taken another sharp turn ... . Torturous (involving pain or suffering) should have been tortuous (full of twists and turns).

For help with troublesome word pairs click here .

Lawn-sign test:

The Smith's?
The Smiths'?

Ever see a lawn sign or mailbox that said The Smith’s (or your choice of surname) and wondered exactly who was The Smith?

It’s the apostrophe. It’s in the wrong place. It should say The Smiths’ and include the whole family, not just The Smith (think The Great Pumpkin or The Big Kahuna). Lots more about the poor, pitiful, misunderstood apostrophe inside UpWORDly Mobile.

Not sure where to place commas or when to use the dash? Confused about colons and semicolons? Come on in!


How sharp are your grammar skills? QUIZ