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It is difficult to be taken seriously on an intellectual level about a serious subject when what is written contains misspelled and misused words.

They’re, there, and their are one set of words that are commonly misused.

Here are some simple rules to determine which word is the correct one to use in what you are writing.

They’re, There, and Their

There are places where we write to people whose opinions matter greatly to us because they’re responsible for making decisions on promotions, so their impressions of us are important.

Did I use the words "they’re," "there," and "their" correctly?

If you are uncertain, let us go through some simple rules to know which word to use where and when.

"They’re" is a contraction of the words "they are." It is never the correct word to use when saying "they are" would not replace it, and neither of the other words is ever the correct word to use when "they are" would replace it. It is that simple.

"There" is a place. It may also be a point in time, but often "then" might be a better word to refer to a point in time. However, not always. For example, we would say "there was a time" when referring to the place in time. "It happened then" would refer to a point in time whereas "it happened there" would refer to the place it happened. It will never refer to people, especially regarding ownership. It will always be a place or a time, and, most generally, a place.

"Their" refers to ownership by other people. It is plural, so a boat that belongs to John is "his" boat, but a boat that belongs to John and Jim is "their" boat. It is the correct word to use when referring to ownership by more than one person. Even people who recognize that "their" is a word that denotes possession will often mistakenly use it as a gender neutral term for individual ownership. It is always a plural possessive.

If you are talking about a single person whose gender is either unknown or irrelevant, "their" is not the correct word to use. The phrase "his or her" is how we would properly identify ownership by a single person whose gender is either not known, or when the gender is irrelevant. If it is not a person, but is singularly owned, "its" would be the correct word to use.

That may seem a bit more complicated, but we can simplify it to "their" denotes ownership by more than one person.

So, let’s review the opening sentence to determine if it was written correctly.

It opened with "there" referring to a place. "There" was the correct word.

About halfway through it contained "they’re." We could have replace "they’re responsible" with "they are responsible" without changing what was meant. "They’re" was the correct word.

Toward the end of the sentence the word "their" was used in conjunction with "impressions." For it to be correct, we must be referring to the ownership of "impressions" by more than one person. We were writing to "people," so it was, indeed, plural, and those people do, indeed, own or possess their impressions of us. "Their" was the correct word.

Their you go . . . I mean, there you go, of course, with "there" being the place you will find the rules!

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