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Phoenix Forward magazine

Don't let grammar mistakes derail your career

We’ve all done it — misplaced an apostrophe, confused “their” with “there” or “they’re,” mismatched subject and pronoun, or left a participle dangling. Is it really such a big deal?

It can be, says Stephanie Cook, an instructor in the communication program at the University of Phoenix Las Vegas Campus. Inadvertently breaking a grammar rule here or there may not hurt you. But many small errors in one composition or employment application will add up, possibly costing you a grade, a promotion or even a job opportunity.

"It's critical to understand how important good written communication is — and that includes having good grammar,” Cook stresses. She notes that instructors, supervisors and hiring managers judge our attention to detail and even our professionalism through what we write, from college essays to business emails to cover letters.

Use this infographic to guide you on some of the most common grammar rules. Print it out for handy reference.

Grammar rules

Getting a grip on good grammar

Want to make sure poor writing skills don’t trip you up? Master these 10 rules to help you shine at school and work.

  1. ’s/s’

    ’s = belonging to a single person or object. Example: The boy’s family is proud of him.

    s’ = belonging to multiple people or objects. Example: The sisters’ bedroom is decorated in green.

    Exception: When referring to an already plural word, like children, you would write children’s.

  2. Affect/Effect

    Affect = to influence. Example: Leading a group of kids can affect them positively.

    Effect = a result. Example: You can have a positive effect on a group of kids.

    Hint: Affect is most often a verb, while effect is most often a noun.

  3. Farther/Further

    Farther = a measure of distance or length. Example: The quarterback threw the football farther than he ever had.

    Further = more of. Example: She wants to further her studies in medicine.

  4. His or Her/Their

    His/Her = belonging to a singular male/female. Example: Anyone can lose his or her appetite once in a while.

    Their = possessed or claimed by a group. Example: Athletes can lose their appetites once in a while.

  5. I/me

    I = use when referring to yourself before the verb. Example: My spouse and I went to the restaurant.

    Me = use when referring to yourself after the verb. Example: My daughter went to the restaurant with my spouse and me.

    Hint: If it doesn’t sound right to say “me” by itself, then use I.

  6. It’s/Its

    It’s = it is/has. Example: It’s a beautiful day. It’s been a long week.

    Its = belonging to something. Example: The dog wanted its bone.

    Hint: If it doesn’t sound right to say “it is/has,” then use its.

  7. Than/Then

    Than = shows comparison. Example: Eagles are larger than robins.

    Then = indicates sequence. Example: He closed the door, then went to bed.

  8. Their/There/They’re

    Their = possessed or claimed by a group. Example: Their team won the World Series last year.

    There = place. Example: The dog buried a bone there.

    They’re = they are. Example: They’re leading the team to victory.

  9. Who/That

    Who = refers back to a particular person. Example: The woman who found the lost puppy got a reward.

    That = refers to nonhuman object. Example: The organization that raised the most money for charity was honored at a banquet.

  10. Who’s/Whose

    Who’s = who is/has. Example: Who’s going to the party? Who’s eaten at that restaurant before?

    Whose = belonging to a person. Example: The girl whose sister was in an accident had to leave early.

    Hint: If it doesn’t sound right to say “who is/has,” then use whose.

Interested in furthering your education?