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The Funny Grammar Guide to Tattoos Part 1

Given that tattoos are a lasting, permanent form of writing, it is surprising how many seem to contain unfortunate spelling and grammar mistakes. They are a rich source of examples for those learning how to use English correctly, and a grave reminder of the consequences to those who decide to cut corners and not run that final proofreading check!

Your, You’re and Yore

These simple words are one of the most common causes of spelling mistakes in the whole English language. Though they sound the same, their different spellings are crucial as their meanings are completely different, so it is essential to learn which is which. ‘Your’ means belonging to you.

For example: is this your book?

‘You’re’ means you are. (The apostrophe shows where the letters have been removed when the two words were abbreviated into one).

For example: I think you’re lovely.

‘Yore’ is an old fashioned word meaning of long ago or of former times.

For example: It was a great kingdom in days of yore.


Punctuation seems to be particularly problematic for tattoo artists, with missing or surplus apostrophes causing embarrassing grammar mistakes in many a tattoo.

Remember that in English grammar, apostrophes are only used for abbreviation or to demonstrate ownership, neither of which is the case in the text that this unfortunate lady has chosen. The first apostrophe, in the word ‘fly’s’ would only be correct if she was using the abbreviated word to say ‘fly is’ or to say that something belonged to a fly.

For example: The fly’s on the ceiling. Or, the fly’s wings fluttered.

In this example, however, the word the artist meant to use was ‘flies’.

The second apostrophe here demonstrates the extremely common mistake of inserting an unnecessary apostrophe before the letter ‘s’ at the end of a plural word.

TOP GRAMMAR TIP: Remember, apostrophes are not used for plurals!

Proofreading is essential

As each of these painfully embarrassing mistakes shows, it is absolutely essential to proofread before you submit the final version of any piece of writing (whether it is a tattoo or a university dissertation). Particularly when writing signs and slogans, it is easy to miss out single letters or to misspell a word, because our hands use muscle memory to help us remember how to spell words correctly. So when we print letters one by one because we are making signs or banners, it is easier than we think to accidentally make a simple spelling mistake. Proofreading (particularly by a third party, who can provide a fresh pair of eyes) is essential to make sure any small mistakes like these are picked up before going to press (or to needle, in this case)!


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