Tag Archives: apostrophe

How to not mess up your tattoo: 7 top tips

As a big fan of tattoos (14 and counting), I always wince when I see one with a typo. It’s awful – not only does it make the person look stupid, it’s also a permanent mistake (unless you sue the tattooist for laser removal… but even that doesn’t take away the shame). Out of the hundreds of examples of bad tattoo grammar, a few common mistakes emerge. Here are my seven top tips, inspired by some of the worst offenders.

1. Your vs. you’re Do you mean ‘you are’? Then you need an apostrophe. Otherwise, you don’t. (In this guy’s defence, we can’t see his thumb, so it might not be a total disaster… there’s still room to add an apostrophe…) Your Your2

2. To vs. too If you mean ‘too much of something’ you need two ‘o’s. If you’re addressing someone it’s just one. Too Too2

3. Judgment is a tragedy This one’s interesting (and brilliantly ironic). The English language can be cruel, and although it sounds like there’s a second ‘d’ hiding in words like tragedy, there isn’t. In other cases, it’s easy to miss one that should be there. Best to check if you’re not sure.

Tragedy Judge

4. Apostrophe’s and plural’s Seriously. Making something plural does not require an apostrophe. This has got to be one of the most commonly committed crimes against grammar.

Ones Sin's

5. Then/than In a nutshell, ‘then’ indicates time (I looked at his tattoo and then shuddered), and ‘than’ is for comparison (her tattoo is worse than the others I’ve seen).

Then Then2

6. Life, live, belief, believe I have a feeling this one’s going to get more common when millions of Beliebers reach the legal age for tattooing… so listen up. Belief is important in life; you have to believe if you want to live. If there’s a ‘v’, it’s a verb. And don’t forget there’s an ‘e’ after the ‘i’ in believe and belief.

Belive Life

7. If in doubt, check it (or at least correct it) Come on, it takes one minute to Google a word.

Awsome Corrected

Got any examples of your own? Or want to check before you ink? Leave a comment!

There, their (they’re)

One of the wonderfully tricky things about the English language is that it contains a huge selection of words that sound the same but have different meanings and different spellings. (There are also, of course, words that sound and look the same but have several meanings, but we’ll save that for another time.) The one that sticks out the most for me is there, their and they’re. And this also lets me rant a teeny bit about apostrophes, which is nice.

This one’s not just for companies, people. We all need to get this right.


Samantha here didn’t even take a side – she just went with the middle ground. Ther. Which also sounds the same.

Here’s the thing – if you get there/their/they’re wrong, it looks daft. This isn’t just something companies in the Fortune 500 have to get right, it’s something that drives me nuts on Facebook (in particular), Twitter, blogs, emails… Self-published electronic media. So here are a few simple ways to remember which one to use.

Refers to a place (or indicates existence when used with the verb ‘to be’, as in ‘there are’). If you can replace it with ‘here’ in your sentence, you’re on the right track. ‘I’d love a cup of tea, thank you; my cup is over there.’

Indicates possession of something. ‘Their cups are in the kitchen.’ If you can replace it with ‘your’, good work.

Has an apostrophe, which is hiding a missing letter. This is a contraction, and it’s short for ‘they are’. ‘They’re really thirsty – put the kettle on!’ Try replacing it with ‘they are’ in your sentence. This one makes me a bit sad, because people seem to be too scared to use it. I think it’s the apostrophe that puts them off. One of the many uses of an apostrophe is to stand in for missing letters (ever see someone write ”Hallow’e’e’n”?). So always remember to use it if referring to something that ‘you are’. Help save the apostrophe.

That’s it. Simple.

So I’ll be scouring posts for offenders. Be warned. (First I’m going to boil the kettle. All this talk of tea is making me thirsty.)

Why you should care – part one: companies

Every day we see mistakes made by companies – the missing comma on the shampoo bottle, the stray apostrophe on the shop sign, the inconsistency on a company website. And here comes the response I’ve heard the most over the years…

‘I don’t care.’

It doesn’t matter. Nobody will notice.

But here’s the thing – they will. I do. I noticed the missing comma, the useless apostrophe, and the lack of consistency on your website. And these things made me judge your company, and judge your services, in a certain way. These things make it look like you fail to work with care and attention, that you’re not very good at what you do. These things make you look unprofessional.


Do I trust the managers referred to in this sign? Do I want to rely on their expertise?

It’s the little things that can propel one company ahead of another. Little things like grammar and punctuation help me decide what I think of a company. So think about the details – pay attention to them – and give your business the chance to look professional.