The English language. It is at once beautifully complex and maddeningly complex.
As writers, it is our job to practice what Stephen King calls telepathy – not the science-fiction kind, but getting the reader’s mind in sync with our thoughts. We do that through words. But it can’t happen if we use the wrong word.
Of those he lists, my favorites are it’s and its. I cringe every time I see something like “The book was in it’s proper place on the shelf.” It’s is a contraction of it is. A simple test is to un-contract the word — “The book was in it is proper place on the shelf.” Obviously sounds pretty dumb that way.
The same can be said of you’re and your. You’re is a contraction of you are. Your is a possessive. Try this sentence: “Your really making progress with that book.” So, since I own it, I can probably store my ‘making progress with that book’ on a shelf somewhere? How about substituting the un-contracted alternative: “You are really making progress with that book.” Makes more sense, huh.