By process of elimination, if your situation is neither of those above, you probably want 'their.' You've tipped the odds of a guess in your favor by using the two tests above.
But, to be thorough:
Their -- shows possession. If something (an object, an idea...whatever) is owned or held by a group of two or more people that doesn't include you, describe it as theirs. The test here would be if you were talking about a group that DID include you, could you replace 'their' in the sentence with 'our' and it would still make sense? If so, 'their' is the choice you want.
Marsha, Jan and Cindy usually sided with their mom when there was a disagreement with the men in the house.
If you imagine for a minute that you are Cindy, the sentence would make sense reading, "Marsha, Jan and I usually sided with our mom when there was...."
This is a slightly more complicated test, but not really difficult once you make a habit of stopping to check that you've chosen the correct homophone (words that sound the same) when writing there/their/they're.
We've run in to this one a lot, lately, in the form of "inputed" and "casted"/"forecasted."
Most of the time, when the past and present versions of a verb are the same, it presents no difficulties:
"hit" and "put" and "shed" seem to do just fine in the hands of nearly everyone. But there's something "input" and variously prefixed forms of "cast" that are causing people grief.
So, for example:
"He put his keys in his pocket and turned away." (past tense)
"I usually put my keys in my right pocket." (present tense)
"The players shed their warm-ups and hit the field, while Coach looked over her notes." (past tense)
"It's time to shed the winter colors and get ready for spring -- let's hit the mall!" (present tense)
"He forecast a rain/snow mix, but in the end, we got all rain." (past tense)
"I forecast mostly sunny for the next several days." (present tense)
"The research assistant input the data last week, so we can run the analyses now." (past tense)
"The system is waiting for me to input instructions so the next routine can start." (present tense)
It has lately come to the Writers' and Polishers' attentions that we have not yet explained the difference between 'comprise' and 'compose.'
There are some nuances (aren't there always?), but in brief, there are two things you need to know:
Now you need never again be confused by this oft-confounding pair of words!
Write and Polish has completed copy for The JOAN Project section on the website of Beyond the Disability. The client was in the process of beginning a larger publicity drive for the project, including a speaking engagement, and needed to quickly flesh out the website content that corresponded to her speaking material.
We were happy to help out!
The United States' upper Midwest has been feeling the winter's chill over the last few days. Enough so that certain idioms and colloquialisms have been shared, in an attempt to describe or quantify just how cold it has been.
This, naturally, gets the Writers and Polishers to wondering at the source(s) of some of these phrases. Being that information has never been easier to acquire than in the Internet age, we looked into a couple of the more common. We now share our findings with you:
The poor brass monkey
Since 1857, the brass monkey has been afflicted by cold, such as would freeze his tail off. This was the first such recorded use, in Before the Mast (by C.A. Abbey). Interestingly, exactly a decade prior, Herman Melville assigned a phrase to a character in Omoo asserting that "It was 'ot enough to melt the nose h'off a brass monkey." Variously, excessive heat or cold has been said to cost the poor brass monkey his ears, nose, whiskers, throat, tail or fur, as well as other, less appropriate bits of the monkey's anatomy, which first appear in the written record by the 1930s.
And, the witch's bosoms?
In the matter of using a witch's tit (or teat) as a yardstick for the cold, what's clear is what is not the colloquial source of the phrase. Contrary to popular belief that it is a vestige of witch-hunting centuries past, in which some stray bit of flesh could be used to convict a woman of consorting, and possibly engaging in unholy congress, with Old Scratch, the phrase first appears in the written record in <drumroll> 1932.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Again, the esteemed experts at the OED have been unable to turn up any use of the phrase prior to that year, when F. Van Wyck [pronounced "Wike"] Mason employed it in his novel, Spider House. While it is generally accepted that such terms are probably being used in conversation before someone writes them down, it nonetheless beggars belief that it could have existed for four or six or eight centuries without a surviving written reference prior to Mr. Mason. As such, it seems that it was coined by a person and with an intent now lost to memory, but in the relatively recent past, and probably as a straight-up metaphor.
1. of, relating to, or living in a stream or river.
2. produced by the action of a stream, "a fluvial plain."
Write and Polish was inspired to the Word of the Day by a journey along the Minnesota bank of the Mississippi River, enjoying the scenic fluvial panoramas, including that shown here. It contrasted with the pastoral terrain of much of the journey from Minneapolis to Milwaukee!
Though none of the Writers and Polishers took this picture (click on it to visit the website of the photographer), it very closely resembles what we enjoyed!
The turn of each year typically features a fairly predictable re-hash of resolution-making and self-help-inspired actualization pep talks.
Many people find this annoying.
Which has no bearing on how applicable it is.
The fact is, the opening of a new calendar is an excellent time to identify areas for improvement, both in our personal and professional lives.
Whether it takes the form of goal-setting (tips for doing that here!) or "resolutions" or updating a resume/business plan, there is enormous power in articulating your intentions -- especially in ways that are constructive and set you up to succeed.
Now, we at Write and Polish are a little biased on this point -- one of our primary foci in marketing is that the words you choose matter. So, of course we think that how you express your plans and needs and hopes has a bearing on the results that you see.
But, time again, our experience has found this approach borne out: words of negativity undermine the credibility of the speaker, and betray a mindset of low expectation. In contrast, the quotation above represents, in our opinion, easily half of the battle when it comes to success. It has been a favorite of ours for years.
A real estate agent friend recently shared some advice that she received years ago: no matter the market, when people ask, "How's business?" always answer, "Unbelievable!" That way, even if it's down, you've told the truth, but avoided surrounding yourself with a Pig Pen-like cloud of pessimism and bad feeling (which, by the way, is contagious).
So, if you are flirting with making resolutions this year, we suggest that one of them be to choose your words to be constructive, optimistic and collaborative whenever possible. Consider it a corollary to the old bromide about asking before speaking: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
Though the vagaries of circumstance will always tend to hijack your long-range plans, each time you possibly can, choose to make 2013 a good year -- starting with the words you select.
Our best to you and yours!
These suggestions apply equally to business or personal improvement.
Goal-setting must be an intentional activity. Be formal about it if you are serious about being successful. When you set goals, you are best to:
Remember that having a group (your family, team, department or company) involved can help you realize the goals that you establish. In an environment with high levels of trust and cooperation, give others permission to respectfully hold you accountable for what you've said that you intend to do.
And, remember that falling short still usually means that you are farther ahead than you were when you began. If your goals need to be revised or re-enlisted, that may be part of "being realistic." And, just like climbing a hill, getting to the top often means you get to enjoy a whole vista of new goals from which you can choose.
Of course, when your goals are about growing your business, Write and Polish is often able to help. We'd be happy to discuss with you your goals, and your strategy for their achievement.
So, lace up those climbing shoes and start writing down what you want to achieve!
Write and Polish Bloggers
Christie Manussier, principal Writer and Polisher, is the usual news reporter.