Tag Archives: spelling

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!

The improtance of proof reading: how to choose your sanity checker

How did that headline make you feel about me and this blog? Disappointed? Angry? Slightly smug?

You’re running the risk of people thinking bad things about you and your product/company/brand by failing to proof read your text effectively. It’s not something you can do yourself, so you’ll need to choose a sanity checker.

Would you pay £12 to be taken to St Pancreas? (I think I might… it sounds like a terrifying adventure.) Thanks to Nico (@nfanget) for the photo!

Whenever I’m planning to issue a press release, send out an email campaign or post an important form, I call on one of my sanity checkers to read the text and identify typos. (They earn the name as a result of my reaction to them finding errors: ‘I must be mad to have missed that!’)

I said sanity checkers plural – that’s important. People have to have holidays. People get sick. They don’t all work in your office and live in your house. And if, like me, you produce a lot of writing, you can’t expect one person to check every word.

Choosing your sanity checkers can be tricky, so here are my top tips.

1. Look for attention to detail. It’s no use choosing someone who doesn’t notice typos. See number 2.
2. Test them. Plant a few typos, wrongly placed apostrophes, double spaces. See if they notice.
3. Don’t choose your co-writer/editor. Your sanity checker should not be familiar with the text you ask them to check. That’s the easiest way to miss mistakes.
4. Pick someone who won’t show off. There’s nothing worse than haughtiness in a proof reader.
5. Pick someone honest. It’s pointless having a sanity checker who’s too shy or polite to tell you about typos.
6. Go for a native speaker. In an ideal world, they will be checking their natural language, making it easier for them to spot mistakes.
7. Make sure they can work MS Word. Like it or not, we write using Word. So make sure they understand how to track changes.
8. Check that they follow instructions. You don’t want endless comments and suggestions on your style of writing and argument structure at proofing stage.
9. Favour convenience. Yes, it’s easy to work with someone in Mongolia thanks to the internet. But is it convenient? If you need quick feedback, choose someone who’s awake at the same time of day as you.

What do you look for in a sanity checker?

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.)