Prompt Images

The internet has been a mixed blessing for humanity, their is no denying that. The level of connection and interaction is staggering; the ability of people to share they’re knowledge and experiences with one another would have been unfathomable three decades ago. Unfortunately, what allows those positive effects to exist also allows for the viciousness and anger in some people to have an amplified reach. The screen of anonymity makes some people believe that there given license to say the worst things they can think of.

For instance, you may be wanting to fire off a tweet railing against me for using their, they’re, and there incorrectly in the previous paragraph. But, here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter. Your understanding was not impeded. That’s because having they’re/their/there (or any set of homophones) is redundant. Your brain, a soggy wad of meat and trillions of electrical connections whose exact processes are still being uncovered by science, is more than capable of using context to decipher which meaning applies for any given usage.

Anytime someone points out an incorrect usage of their/there/they’re, the appropriate response is to ask them “In conversation, when someone says, ‘Look over there,’ do you have to ask if they meant T-H-E-R-E or one of the other spellings?” Because that’s what it sounds like, regardless of context. When spoken out loud, no one needs additional context clues to determine if the word refers to location, plural possession, or a contraction of plural action.

Pointing out grammatical errors is possibly classist and definitely a flailing power move.

The only reason to do it is to remind someone that they aren’t as smart as you. That’s why telling some asshole on Twitter telling people “your dumb” is so satisfying: As soon as you say it, the tables have definitively turned in your favor. Same with pointing out a they’re/their/there error.

So when someone tries to take that grammatical high ground, turn the tables. Ask if the spelling error confused them.

English is riddled with illogical idiosyncrasies because of its complicated parentage. Those quirks become evident when you work with students, like I do, who are learning to understand the written language.

The world is confusing to kids. The framework for how almost everything works is new to them. They are looking for rules and logic to follow, and when the rules don’t line up, kids will loudly tell you. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Languages are not static things. They can and should change to fit the needs of their users.

Do we really need the L in should? Of course not. We shood get rid of it. And we don’t need there, their, AND they’re when one spelling will suffice. The solution is to streamline our spelling. I propose theyr to replace all three.

Observe: Theyr going to theyr beach house. I was invited but I don’t know when I’ll get theyr.

See? It works.

I can hear the protests of small-minded grammar snobs, so hellbent on seeing the world as it is, telling me that I can’t just make up words. Aren’t all words made up? Isn’t language a manmade construct?

Have you or someone you know ever tut-tutted someone who said they needed to “axe” a question? My dad hates this pronunciation—he thinks it sounds stupid. But you know what else he hates? When I point out that the “proper” pronunciation for “ask” used to be “axe.” Ask comes from and Old English word, “acsian.” Chaucer used “axe” and so did the Bible. But at some point the wrong pronunciation of “ask” became the right pronunciation. So let me axe you this: Does it make you a better person to put others down for their spelling or pronunciation?

Instead of pointing out that someone doesn’t know or follow the rules of grammar, we see what the “mistakes” are telling us about grammar. Theyr might be room for improvement.

Dennis William

Dennis is an aspiring English teacher and still listens to ska music. He lives in Portland, Oregon, which is fine, just not in the same way that DC is fine.

learn more
Share this story
About The Prompt
A sweet, sweet collective of writers, artists, podcasters, and other creatives. Sound like fun?
Learn more