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Proofreading and Editing tips…

17 May

There, They’re or Their?

When most of us stop to think about it, we know the rules for ‘there’, ‘they’re’ and ‘their’. It’s just easy to forget when we’re concentrating on the bigger picture in an essay or dissertation and mistakes in this area seem particularly hard to spot. So, here’s a quick reminder…

‘There’ is positional. It indicates where something is: ‘over there’, ‘here or there’ and sometimes more loosely in expressions like ‘there now!’ or ‘there, there’. More often than not, if one of the alternatives below does not seem to make sense then ‘there’ is the term you need.

‘They’re’ is simply short for ‘they are’. When you’re checking through your work, every time you come across ‘there’, ‘they’re’ or ‘their’ it can be useful just to read the sentence to yourself inserting ‘they are’ instead. You very quickly realise if ‘they’re’ is the form that you need (and you may choose to use the long form anyway – ‘they are’ – since abbreviations are uncommon in academic writing.

‘Their’ is used to indicate that something belongs to ‘them’. Again, it is sometimes easier to check that you have this right once you have completed your work. If you’re unsure about the usage for this then when you are reading through, every time you come across ‘there’, ‘they’re’ or ‘their’ trying replacing it with ‘belonging to them’ and see if it fits.

So, instead of ‘their ideas’, ‘their research’ or ‘their paper’ try out ‘ideas belonging to them’, ‘research belonging to them’ and ‘paper belonging to them’ in your head. You will quickly see when ‘their’ is the appropriate word.

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