3 Keys to Ensuring that You’re Learning From the Right Expert

By Tracie Rollins with Infusionsoft

3 Keys to Ensuring that You’re Learning From the Right ExpertYour small business isn’t immune to the shifting tides of technology and the need for continuous improvement. To stay competitive in your industry, you must continue to learn and apply newfound knowledge to your business and to your life.

Learning can seem like an overwhelming task on your to-do list, especially if you have to weed through a queue of self-proclaimed experts who have great ideas, but don’t necessarily have the experience to back up their proclamation. I’ve spent decades relying on subject matter experts to help me develop courses because they have accurate in-depth knowledge in one or two specific areas. A short meeting often provides great insight into the topic and at least two or three additional references for further research.

Finding the Right Subject Matter Experts

Sifting through a list of experts takes time, but not as much as you think. In the old days, finding the right source meant that you’d have to ask around the office, visit a university or open the Yellow Pages and let your fingers do the walking. Once you found experts with the right credentials, you’d have to schedule a face-to-face meeting to talk to them so that they could step you through the process and show you the ropes.

This process was extremely laborious, and while nothing beats a good recommendation, the internet has certainly changed the landscape for experts across the globe. Finding the right one is easier than ever when you follow these three tips:

  1. Be Specific—If you’re looking to improve marketing in your small business start by narrowing down your topic to something less broad. Instead of trying to earn a degree in marketing, narrow down your focus to topics like developing better copy, demand generation techniques or efficient ways of email marketing. Narrowing down your topic before you search helps you find the best person or company to answer your questions.
  2. Search—Search both inside and outside of your network. Recommendations are great, but having the same knowledge as your peer group keeps you average.  Use the internet to find companies and influencers. Then, review their website for articles, products, services, authorship, patents and blogs to see where they’re going, instead of where they’ve been. You want to learn from experts who are progressing in their field of expertise.
  3. Verify—Once you’ve found a few good candidates, take some time to review their credentials on sites like LinkedIn to determine if they have the experience to back up their claims. Use sites like Amazon to read reviews on their published works and search for customer reviews on sites like the Better Business Bureau and Yelp.

Once you’ve identified a few good subject matter experts, subscribe to their mailing list and start engaging and learning from them. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars and often times can start with free or low price point offers before upgrading to premium training and coaching. Often times, a little more knowledge helps you understand the basics and provide the right amount of information to take the next step in improving the success of your business.
If you’re looking to improve your email marketing skillset, join Infusionsoft and Amy Birk for the Ninja Marketing Challenge. This free learning series will help you build your email list, send the right message at the right time and craft amazing content that converts.

You can also meet with an expert at Greater Phoenix SCORE for free! Click here to search for the right mentor (expert)!

About the Author:

Tracie Rollins of InfusionsoftTracie Rollins has focused her professional efforts on bridging the gap between knowledge and performance. She applies over 18 years of experience to marketing strategy, research, and development of content that educates, influences and improves the lives of others. She believes that education provides knowledge, knowledge drives actions, and actions change the world.

As the Content Strategy Manager at Infusionsoft, Tracie Rollins helps small businesses succeed by developing e-learning and authoring content for small business consumption and application.

As an entrepreneur, Tracie has appeared on KTVK’s Good Morning Arizona show, and has been featured in the Institute for Industrial Engineering magazine, Woman’s World, Arizona Republic and multiple local publications. She and her husband, Lonny help small business stand out amongst the competition with The Rollins Advantage, LLC. You can connect with Tracie online at LinkedIn or on Google+.

 

How to Really get Known as an Expert in Your Field: Write for LinkedIn

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Don’t get stuck in the Past: 4 tips to Modernize your Website

By Erik Wong, GoDaddy

You’ve climbed mountains to make it this far. Your small business’s doors have opened and business is starting to pick up. There was so much to do, so many details to align, to get to this point. With that many moving parts, things can get lost in the shuffle. In your balancing act, you’ve managed to set aside some time to create a simple, informational website about your business to supplement your brick-and-mortar location. It would never win a Webby award, but that’s OK! It’s done, it’s live, and that makes it one less thing you need to focus on.

Or is it?

Don’t get stuck in the Past: 4 tips to Modernize your WebsiteIn this age of ever-evolving content, your website needs to stay with the curve. Nobody wants to be the person with the website that looks like it was made in 2004. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but you should definitely be aware of newer trends and how they drive more traffic to your site. Remember, the more online traffic to your site, the more foot traffic your brick-and-mortar gets. And if you happen to sell products or services online, well that’s a no-brainer!

First impressions matter.

Your home page will be the first impression many people get of your business. Many reputable companies employ basic home pages with only a little content. Studies show that simple design increases SEO ranking as well as customer traffic, as more people are drawn into a site that is not a cluttered mess. Keep your home page simple yet appealing; don’t try to tell a customer everything at one time. This handily leads into our next tip:

Keep up with the latest design trends.

Web designers love to play with the latest design trends and tips. According to Forbes magazine, big trends for 2014 are simple, yet responsive designs. Flashy HTML sites might have been all the rage in 2001, but the technology for designing sites has since improved tenfold. Take advantage of these new technologies to keep your site dynamic and current. But hey, who has time to peruse the tech magazines for nonsense like this? Well… we do. Check out the GoDaddy Garage to stay in touch with popular design options.

Show some love for mobile viewers.

Did you know that nearly 50 percent of all local business searches take place on mobile devices? A business without a mobile site is therefore potentially missing out on half of its traffic! Don’t believe me? Take a gander at these astonishing statistics and then tell me it’s not important. Due to the sheer popularity of mobile browsing, most web design platforms offer some sort of mobile translation or standalone designer specifically for mobile sites.

Keep up with search engine expectations.

Your business will take a long time to grow by just word of mouth. You need to get your name out there, and fast. Get your billboard up on the search engine highway by adhering to the visibility expectations of the major search engines. Recently, search engine juggernaut Google announced that they will be incorporating both social media presence AND HTTPS security in their algorithm. That means getting social and secure can help you rank higher in search engine results. And that’s good for business.

About the Author

Eirk WongErik Wong is a small business/tech consultant for GoDaddy and a freelance pop-culture writer. He has written a regular column for a current events blog, and his commentary has been featured on realclearpolitics.com. Connect with Erik on Google+. The world’s largest domain name registrar and Web hosting provider, GoDaddy gives small business owners the tools to name their idea, build a beautiful online presence, attract customers and manage their business. To get more tips for your small business—including articles, videos and webinars—check out the GoDaddy Training Hub.

 

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Realistic Goals in Social Media

By Giselle Aguiar, AZ Social Media Wiz

I’ve been reading one of the latest books on social media, “A World Gone Social” by Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt. I highly recommend it for those of you who are still trying to figure out this newfangled marketing and those of you who are used to the old-fashioned or as the authors put it, “Industrial-Age” marketing.

One big discussion question is What is the return on investment (ROI) in social media?

Answer: There is no set way to determine that. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. What are your goals and objectives?

Another questions is How do you sell on social media?

Realistic Social Media Goals for businessesAnswer: You really don’t. The big brands can do it, but they’ve built up their following and they’re working hand-in-hand with the networks in advertising and ways to get those impulse buyers to “buy now” and get them before they change their minds. It takes a solid plan, a hefty advertising budget and a staff.

Social media is a tool to accomplish several goals:

  1. Drive traffic to your website
  2. Become known as an expert in your field
  3. Search engine optimization (SEO) / getting on the first page of Google search
  4. Social amplification – getting folks to share your content with their friends
  5. Increase awareness and exposure
  6. Lead generation – it’s up to your site to capture the leads and then up to you to nurture them into sales.
  7. Reduced marketing costs – these are all free billboards – but if you don’t know how to use them properly, you need to invest in training. You may also need to invest in graphic designer to create quality graphics or a videographer to create quality videos.

A solid marketing plan is also key. Defining goals, your target market and the strategy you’re going to use to reach your goals.

So what are realistic goals in social media?

Again, it depends. The answer will vary depending on if you’re business to business or business (B2B) to consumer (B2C), your industry, your current customer base. If you’re starting from scratch, your goals may look something like this:

Following:

  • Facebook: 30 “Likes” – after 30 likes you get insights from your Facebook fans on your business page – you get demographics: age, gender and location; you can also see what posts got the most engagement.
  • LinkedIn: 50 connections on your personal/professional profiles along with a complete profile makes you an “All-Star” and you’ll come up higher in searches
  • Twitter: 100 followers – after 100 followers you can analyze them with SocialBro and get demographics like what time zones your followers are in and when’s the best time to tweet? You can also use SocialBro in combination with HootSuite to schedule out posts and tweets. Here’s a video to show you how that works.
  • Google+: 100+ active followers — you are engaging with each other — liking, sharing, commenting — you will be rewarded by Google by improving your search results ranking by 14 spaces! The more active you are on Google+, the faster Google will index links posted as “Public” in the Google search engine! You cannot ignore Google+!

It takes a lot of time and effort to build a following.

If you put in 90 minutes a day for 1 month, you should reach those goals. Once you’re following is built, it builds momentum and each “milestone” should become your next set of goals. As long as you keep feeding them content that they like, your following will grow and that social amplification will kick in.

Sites statics and analytics can provide another set of goals.

  • Page views – the more often you blog and share it on social media, the more traffic you will drive to your site. This should increase if you consistently put out good content.
  • Referral sources – knowing which networks are driving more traffic to your site is crucial in setting your strategy and tactics for the next months. Increasing the number of referrers from either of the networks is your next goal.
  • Most popular posts – tell you what type of content is most popular with visitors to your site. Keep feeding them and they will keep coming!

Register for the social media seminarIf all this seems overwhelming and totally foreign to you, then you need to attend my social media seminar that I’m giving on 10/28 for Greater Phoenix SCORE at the North Mountain Business Alliance in North Phoenix. Only $25 and I’ll be covering branding along with an overview of the major social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest as well as blogging, hashtags and trends!

If you can’t make that one, I’ll be holding a seminar with SCORE each month. Coming up:

Content Marketing, WordPress & Blogging: How To Get On The First Page of Google

Friday November 14, 2014 from 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM MST
The Google search engine is looking for fresh, relevant content written for the human reader. That is content marketing, aka blogging. We will cover blogging platforms, designing your blog, how to blog, what to blog about, how often to blog, video blogs, promoting your blog, capturing leads, and statistics/analytics.

The Right Way to Use LinkedIn to Promote Your Business

Tuesday December 9, 2014 from 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM MST
LinkedIn is the “Facebook for Professionals” and it’s not just an online resume! It’s your virtual Rolodex! Are you using it properly?
You need a solid marketing plan before you jump in and part of that is defining your target market – a SCORE mentor can help you with that for free! Click here to schedule a mentoring session.

About the Author:

Giselle Aguiar, AZ Social Media WizGiselle Aguiar, founder of AZ Social Media Wiz is a social media, inbound and content marketing strategist & trainer helping small to mid-sized business owners learn how to leverage the power of social media marketing, increase traffic to their websites, generate leads, increase brand awareness and establish themselves as experts in their fields. As with anything in business, using the right tools in the right way and at the right time are critical parts to your success. Learn from someone who’s known the Internet since it’s infancy. Official Social Media, Newsletter and Blog Manager for Greater Phoenix SCORE and Adjunct Faculty at Phoenix College. Social media training – 1-on-1 or for groups. WordPress sites and blogs. http://azsocialmediawiz.com 602-738-1700. You can connect with Giselle online at LinkedIn or on Google+.

 

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SCORE Success Story: Prime Realty Group LLC

SCORE Business Success StoryCompany: Prime Realty Group LLC

Owner: Elise Sarmiento

Type of Business: Real Estate Investments

SCORE Mentor: Tom Loegering

SCORE Services:

  • Business Plan Development
  • Business Plan Review
  • Business Start-up
  • Home-based Business
  • Management
  • Real Estate
  • Office Admin/Mgmt
  • Real Estate Investment

SCORE’s Role:

I was very lucky to meet Tom Loegering in April, 2012. Although I was trained as a professional (veterinarian), Tom provided me with much-needed guidance in focusing on key parameters that are critical to balancing one’s life:

  • Personal
  • Financial
  • Family
  • Physical
  • Community
  • Spiritual

His message was simple —

Learn to control yourself in these key aspects of life and you can accomplish almost anything to which you set your mind.

Focus on Your Target MarketBy applying these principles, I found that much of the clutter and distraction that challenged me nearly every day, gradually became mitigated. I found that I was increasingly able to direct my energy and focus toward greater creativity and development of novel ideas.

The path, although simple, was not easy at first. I discovered very quickly that I needed to approach each of these life aspects in steps much like a business plan. Tom taught me to write down a plan for achieving each goal including the small and very personal ones. By putting each plan on a timeline, I gradually began to get my life under control. Then an interesting thing happened — I began to notice that a strong sense of peace began to enter my life as I achieved more and more of my goals. The peace and sense of personal control that came into my life began to clear my mind and I found that I had increasingly more energy and drive to be creative and to accomplish new goals.

Since meeting Tom, I have become licensed in real estate and am pursuing a career in locating multifamily properties that yield high cash-on-cash returns for investors. I also am a Realtor in single family residential properties with Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living in Scottsdale, AZ. Of course, I still work as a veterinarian, but now I find that I can provide a much higher level of care for my patients because I think more clearly and am much more efficient!

I feel that the sky is the limit, and I can’t wait to achieve sufficient financial wealth to allow me to establish a scholarship fund that will help others achieve peace and balance in life through education, self-discipline, and perseverance.


Many would-be entrepreneurs are wondering how to balance a day-job, family and a start-up company. A SCORE mentor can provide the guidance needed to manage everything and help you be successful – and it’s free! Click here to schedule a free meeting. We are located at several locations around the Phoenix Valley.

Is your business a SCORE story? Contact your mentor to get the success form and we’ll feature your story!

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Entrepreneurs & Small Business Owners: Can you Think like a CEO?

Leadership: Think like a CEOTechnically, if you own your own business, you are a CEO – Chief Executive Officer. You don’t need full corporation status to think like a CEO – it’s all about leadership.

What essential skill separates the small business owner from the Fortune 500 CEO?  It is the ability to make big plans with confidence.

When making big plans such as: acquiring a distressed competitor, hiring managers, or buying an expensive piece of equipment, knowing the answer to the following three questions will separate you from the rest of the field.

  • How much more business do I need to break-even on the new expense?
  • How fast can I grow my sales to exceed my new break-even point?
  • How can I know I won’t run out of cash?

When you have the ability to quickly answer these three questions when making your plans, fear evaporates and you enter a whole new era that will shape the future of your company.

If you are you constantly thinking of new ideas to grow your business, but struggle with how to know which ideas you should pursue, and which ideas you can afford to pursue, the upcoming, hands-on workshop “Think and Act Like a Fortune 500 CEO When Growing Your Small Business Into A Successful Company” presented by Steve Meisenheimer of The Effective Leader, is for you. (Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, 3-5 pm in Ahwatukee.)

This is not a financial workshop.  Your skills in all four areas (sales, marketing, operations and finance) are equally tested when answering these three challenging questions.

Core Concepts

Audience members learn exactly what it takes to make big the decisions that will grow their companies in the most efficient and profitable way possible.  They experience, hands on, the actual process of thinking through the plans identified in #1 above.  They will then learn to quickly produce the answer to question #2 while monitoring the critical nature of question #3.

Who Should Attend?

Anyone who leads an organization, or wishes to be in a leadership role, will benefit and enjoy this workshop.  It is well suited for all levels of leadership skill. Aspiring leaders will get an expanded view of what leaders must do, and how to do it, to be successful.  Experienced leaders will learn new techniques and activities to further improve their skills, their effectiveness, and their influence.

Requirements

The workshop includes extensive audience interaction with our planning tool.  Attendees will need to come with a laptop that can read a Microsoft Excel file, or be willing to look on with another.  iPads will not work with the tool.

About Steve Meisenheimer

Steve MeisenheimerMeisenheimer has owned nine companies in his career. Like most business owners, he spent much of it learning about leadership through trial and error. This was a risky way to learn when the futures and fortunes of his employees, investors, and many other stakeholders counted on his leadership.  Business audiences who want to learn the practices, and achieve the results, of the most effective leaders appreciate his content and motivational style.  After being at the helm of his own companies for 28 years, Meisenheimer now owns a company called The Effective Leader, which trains  business  owners  to  become business leaders.  He also speaks   professionally,  has  written  three  books  and  enjoys teaching others to succeed in the great game of business.

 

 

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7 Essential Skill Sets for Business Success

by George Obst, Certified SCORE Mentor

7 Essential Skill Sets for Business Success Everything is changing at such a dizzying pace that it is hard to keep up.  Whether you are an entrepreneur running an existing business or starting a business,  know that the pace of change has accelerated.  Although we have always had to deal with change, its magnitude, speed and depth is unlike anything we have had to fact heretofore.  All indications are this change proposition will continue to accelerate in the years ahead.  Anticipating and adapting to these changes faster than your competitors will help ensure your success.

Are you in a rut?  Are you thinking and operating the way you always have, or are you facing the future with a new vitality and resolve.  As the external environment changes, your thinking and strategies need to change as well.  For many of us that means acquiring new skills.  You need to engage change proactively, making the necessary business changes to maintain competitive advantage.  If you are in the process of developing your start-up business plan, you will need to be aware of the changes taking place within your business specialty.  You will need to anticipate how your customer expectations are changing so you are not caught “flat footed”.

Ram Charan, a noted management consultant and author, has identified seven interrelated learnable skills that separate the performers from non-performers:

  1. Pinpoint external changes and trends quickly and accurately.
  2. Use this information to position your business and to re-position your thinking.  This process has to happen quickly enough to be effective because of the pace of change.  This means aligning your actions with today’s realities.
  3. Quickly and accurately identify the changing needs of your customers and meet these needs better than your competitors.  You need to be quicker and more nimble in recognizing changing customer requirements.
  4. Set goals and laser sharp priorities.  Select the right set of goals, make them achievable, and get everyone involved.  Goals need to be stated clearly, be measureable and communicated effectively and often.
  5. Evaluate your key staff and determine whether they are high achievers, flexible, willing to adapt to new realities, have a positive can-do attitude and are team players.
  6. Develop in yourself and team leaders the ability to be “coaches” rather than “bosses”.  Bosses tell people what to do.  Coaches ask questions and together with their people work on goals, priorities and solutions to problems.
  7. As an entrepreneur you need to possess the following attributes:  integrity, character, ambition, drive, tenacity, “people skills”, communication skills, psychological openness, realism and an insatiable appetite for learning.

Success on a sustained basis in this world of change depends on your cultivating and practicing these seven skills sets.

About the Author:

George Obst, Certified SCORE MentorGeorge Obst is a Certified SCORE mentor with more than 30 years experience profitably managing and growing businesses, including start-ups, purchasing, financing and selling businesses.

 

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Hitting the Target: Setting & Reaching Your Goals

By George Obst, Certified SCORE Mentor

HITTING THE TARGET                  SETTING AND ACHIEVING THE RIGHT GOALSSetting and achieving the right set of goals are two of the most important skill sets essential to entrepreneurial and business success.

Setting goals is about determining the set of objectives that best balances what your organization can become and what it can realistically achieve. It is about setting goals that are achievable, and yet stretch the organization to greater accomplishments.  Goals need to be clear and discussed frequently and effectively.  Also, they need to be measurable with progress documented at frequent intervals.

Once the goals are set, the priority actions need to be identified.  These priority actions are the pathway for accomplishing the goals.  This truly is where the rubber meets the road.  The right priority actions, combined by relentless follow-up, keep the truly important things on the radar screen.  In most day-to-day work environments everything seems urgent and important.  Defining what the most important actions should be and pursuing their accomplishment attests to the tenacity, attitude, and judgment of leadership.

Typically, setting four to six goals are about as many as can be effectively handled.  Then, setting at most, three to four priorities (action steps) for each goal should represent the most important and timely actions that must be taken to achieve the goal.  Each action step should have a due date and be assigned to one or more individuals.  Full dialogue about the goals and priorities needs to occur to achieve buy-in from the people who will carry out the actions.

Setting the wrong priorities, or having too many priorities, dilutes the entire effort and results in non-performance. Often, priorities are set when too little information is available or when people filter the information through their own biases or ego.

Let’s look at a simple example to illustrate the concept.  The goal is to increase sales 8% in 2014.  This goal was arrived at after an analysis of why sales were growing at only 2%.

The priorities may be:

  1. Survey existing accounts (by a specified date) that showed a drop in sales or had flat sales to determine the reasons.
  2. Based on the result of the survey take a defined action. For example, if product quality was a significant reason, then identify a priority to make operational improvements.  Be specific about the step(s) you will take.
  3. Identify a hit list of potential new accounts and call on five of these a month.

Effectively identifying and implementing goals and priorities, and linking their accomplishment to individual and team performance, have a powerful impact on people’s behavior. The result will be sustained and significant organization progress and success.

SCORE, a resource partner of the US Small Business Administration has certified mentors who can help you identify the most important goals and priorities for your business or business idea. Call today, (602 745-7250) or click here to make your no fee appointment with a SCORE mentor.  There is never a charge and you can be assured of the very best counsel and advice.

About the Author:

George Obst, Certified SCORE MentorGeorge Obst is a Certified SCORE mentor with more than 30 years experience profitably managing and growing businesses, including start-ups, purchasing, financing and selling businesses.

 

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Common Grammar Errors Bloggers Make

By Sharon Bohm

Grammar Check!

What’s wrong with this picture? It should be “Girls” plural. “Girl’s” is possessive. Ex. “It’s that girl’s bag.” If they had wanted to show possessive, then it should read, “Girls’ Room”.

Recently a SCORE blog post from GoDaddy talked about the importance of proofreading blog posts before hitting “publish”. I was asked to contribute these grammar tips as a sequel. Sure your proofreading, but do you know what to look for? Sometimes words seem similar and are easily misused. For instance, in the previous sentence, did you notice that it’s the wrong “your”? It should be you’re, a contraction of you and are. If you’re not sure which “your” to use, replace it with “you are”. If it makes sense, then it’s “you’re” if not, then it’s the possessive “your”.

Here are a few of the more common grammar errors and some tips to avoid them:

Witch Which Word?

Then or Than

Then or than cannot be used interchangeably.

Then can indicate a period of time.

Ex. I didn’t eat breakfast when I woke up because I wasn’t hungry then.

In can also indicate an order in a series.

Ex. First, I went to the grocery store. Then, I went home and cooked dinner.

Then is also used in conditional statements paired with the word if.

Ex. If I run my errands today, then, I won’t have to run them tomorrow.

Than is used to compare two items.

Ex. I prefer chocolate than vanilla ice cream.

Important thing to note: Do not rely on Spell Check to catch a mistake misusing then or than or other words that are similar. It won’t. Always proofread your work. Proofreading is good practice in writing.

Affect or Effect

Like then and than, these two words cannot be used interchangeably and people often get confused when to use them.

Affect is generally used as a verb meaning to influence.

Ex. Not studying for finals will negatively affect your grade.

Effect is generally used as a noun that is the result of a cause.

Ex. Not studying had a negative effect on my grade.

Important thing to note: Again, Spell Check will not catch a mistake misusing effect and affect.

There, Their, or They’re

Although misusing these forms is common, it is not tricky to remember when to use each.

There generally indicates a specific place.

Ex. My car is over there.

There is also used to introduce a noun.

Ex. There is too much dressing on my salad.

Their is a possessive. It indicates belonging.

Ex. That is their car.

You can even use them both in a sentence.

Ex. Their car is over there.

They’re is a contraction of they are. That is the only time it is used.

Ex. They’re coming with us.

Other Possessives

Just about everyone knows that you need to use an apostrophe (‘) to indicate possession.

Ex. That is Lisa’s book.

There is an exception. The word it’s is not a possessive. It’s is a contraction for it is. Use its without the apostrophe to indicate possession.

Ex. The dog ate its kibble.

Other examples of possessives that do not use the apostrophe include: theirs, his, hers, our – to name a few.

And then there are common typos like:

  • form / from
  • out / our
  • too, to and two (also, where and the number)
  • now / own
  • of / off

The proper use of commas is another major topic that we’ll leave for another post.

‘Fess up: What are your common typos or grammar errors? Please comment below.

 

About the Author:

Sharon BohmSharon Bohm is a local  freelance writer. She taught English Composition for the Maricopa Community College District for many years. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

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