Rogue Words from A to Z: You’re Not a Yutz

A to Z Letter YDo you feel like a yutz when you have to decide between using your or you’re?

You’re not alone.

There’s a good reason why we struggle with when to use you’re. This word violates all our expectations.

Normally an apostrophe is used to show that someone possesses something, as in “Sue’s yo-yo.”

But if you want to write “your yo-yo,” you need to use the word your without an apostrophe.

You’re with an apostrophe is only used when “you are” is being contracted into one word.

The same rule applies to their / they’re and its / it’s. If you’d like more on these words, you may want to check out my grammar story Night of the Apostrophe Ninja.

To demonstrate this apostrophe rule, here’s a very short story.

Your vs. You’re – Who Will Win the Lady’s Heart?

In days of yore, two knights stood before the Queen, yammering about their quest to slay the yellow yeti.

Your Majesty,” said the older knight, “I regret to report that we were unable to fulfill your desire. The beast is still alive.”

“What beast?” asked the Queen, bewildered.

We?” protested the younger knight. “You’re the one who decided it was a good idea to wake the yeti up by challenging it, instead of sneaking up and chopping off its head.”

The Queen flinched. Then her cheeks blossomed in anger. “How dare you-”

“Look how you have offended Her Majesty by your violation of the Knight’s Code of Conduct!” remonstrated the older knight. “You have constantly demonstrated your ignorance of our traditions.” He turned to the Queen, who was clearly in a rage. “Your Majesty, I protest. Your young ‘champion’ is hotheaded and will not listen to reason.”

“Listen to reason? You’re the one who never listens! You’re too busy living in the past, and now we’re stuck with that yeti.”

You’re the ones who are not listening,” yelled the Queen. “How dare you interrupt me!”

The two knights were immediately silent.

“We gave no command to attack the yellow yeti. Clearly you have been blinded by your pride. We hereby strip you of your titles until you’re willing to act like the knights you should be.”

The former knights slunk away, shamefaced.

After they had left the chamber, the Queen’s form shimmered, and in her place was a yellow yeti.

“Well, that was close,” said the yeti. “Good thing my knights are a bunch of incompetent yahoos, or I would never have heard the end of it from my sisters.”

***

I can’t believe I’m coming up to the last A to Z post! Stay tuned for the final episode tomorrow, where I will zap the zombified letter Z…

 

© Sue Archer and Doorway Between Worlds, 2015

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“Night of the Apostrophe Ninja” Published in The Ghouls’ Review

Hi everyone,

My story “Night of the Apostrophe Ninja” has just been published in the Grammar Corner column of the inaugural edition of The Ghouls’ Review. Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Purkis (from the excellent blog Apoplectic Apostrophes) has brought together a fantastic collection of fiction and creative non-fiction. I encourage you to check it out!

komori ninja

Image Credit: Komori by Gary Dupuis. Stock art purchased from http://www.rpgnow.com

 

Night of the Apostrophe Ninja

Like many of his neighbours in the sleepy small town of Anywhere, Bob was puzzled by the mysterious word its. When should he use an apostrophe? Bob was known as the best writer in town, and he dreaded everyone finding out his shameful secret.

Bob did know that apostrophes could do two things:

1. Show the reader that two words have been put together and letters have been removed.

2. Show the reader that an object is being possessed by someone or something.

So it made sense to Bob that people might write things like Bob’s a really smart guy. (If they only knew!)

Bob understood that Bob is could be contracted into Bob’s, with the apostrophe showing that there were missing letters.

Bob was also familiar with I always go to Bob’s house when I need some advice about apostrophes. (Oh, the mounting pressure!)

Since Bob owned his house, it made sense to write Bob’s house.

Bob was comfortable using apostrophes with almost any noun for the two situations. But then there were those exceptions he just didn’t understand: it, you, and they. He wasn’t comfortable deceiving his friends into believing he was a punctuation expert. He needed to figure this out. Maybe tonight he would finally master it.

Nancy’s coming over here tomorrow for apostrophe advice, Bob thought, and I’m worried about whether I have this right. Ha! The dog’s barking. It’s happening again. I must find out who is helping me!

Every night, Bob was being visited by a mysterious apostrophe thief. This stealthy punctuation master would slice out all the apostrophes that didn’t belong and take them away.  Bob had never caught a glimpse of his visitor. He was left with only the results—accurate sentences.

Over time, Bob had noticed a pattern. Those vague and disturbing pronouns it, you, and they often had apostrophes going missing into the night. For these words, an apostrophe was left behind only for a situation where Bob was putting words together:

It’s strange that this is happening. [replacing It is]

You’re not going to believe this. [replacing You are]

They’re wrong about me being a punctuation genius. [replacing They are]

When Bob was writing about the possession of something, the apostrophes disappeared. Instead of it’s, you’re, and they’re, he was left with its, your, and their.

If only the town knew its resident writer was not the true source of punctuation knowledge. [the resident writer belonged to the town]

My dog always barks at your arrival, oh mysterious visitor. [the visitor controls the arrival]

But the townfolk go on their merry way, unaware of who is in their midst. [the townfolk are responsible for their oblivious activity]

At the sound of the dog barking, Bob sprinted into his home office. He found a shrouded figure crouched on his messy desk, claws resting lightly on the surface. Bob halted in the doorway.

He whispered, “It’s you! You’re the one who’s been stealing my apostrophes and preserving my reputation! They’re treating me like I’m a genius, but you’re the one who truly knows!”

The ninja slowly nodded its head.

“Oh, great punctuation master, please tell me if I have learned the pattern correctly for it, you, and they. When you’re contracting words, you use an apostrophe. But when you want to show possession, you do not use an apostrophe. Your teachings have taught me this. I will now be able to truly help the townspeople with their punctuation. Am I correct?”

The ninja nodded its head again.

“May the town know its true benefactor?”

In the blink of an eye, the apostrophe thief sprang out the window and disappeared into the night.

komori ninja

Image Credit: Komori by Gary Dupuis. Stock art purchased from http://www.rpgnow.com

Holding his breath, Bob approached his desk. None of the apostrophes had been removed from his papers. He had finally achieved mastery!

The town slept on, unaware of one man’s secret triumph.