...for improper use of "their." Did that headline make you cringe? It made me cringe to write it, but I was illustrating a point. I'm terribly sorry.
If you didn't see anything wrong with that headline, well...
You might be part of the problem.
The "problem," of course, is the astounding misuse of three similar words: there, they're, and their. They all sound the same, but they're (<--see? this is correct) all very different.
How and when to use "they're", "there", or "their"
1. "There" is usually used when you're talking about a place. Wanna pet my platypus? He's over there.
- It can also be used with "is" when the subject of your sentence isn't clear.
- You mean the cage in the corner? There isn't anything in that... <-- In this case, we used "there" because we're talking about the concept of "is" and "is not.
2. "Their" is used for plural possession.That is, when something belongs to more than one person, you use "their."
- Jim and Mary checked, but their platypus was nowhere to be found.
3. "They're" is a contraction for "they are," which you'd use when you talk about multiple people who share a quality.
- I talked to Jim and Mary yesterday. Reginald escaped—they're devastated. <-- In this case, Jim and Mary are upset; hence they are, or they're, upset.
That's it. There is a place, their is something multiple people own, and they're is a contraction of they and are.
Remember: think of the definition.
All it takes is knowing what you're trying to say. Are you talking about a place, a belonging, or a state of being? Pick the appropriate word based on context.
Seems simple, right? That's because it is.
Hooray for proper syntax!