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If a person uses the wrong form of your or you're, would that be considered a spelling or grammatical error? I can really see it swinging both ways...

A sentence with the incorrect use of the word is technically grammatically incorrect, but the root cause could be simple spelling error. If a person speaks a sentence with an incorrect use of the word in question, it seems grammatically correct. When you look at the reader's script, it is then determined to be a spelling error.

When shown in writing, should the error be marked as a spelling or grammatical error?

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This doesn't seem like an objective question, but IMO the term "spelling error" is reserved for words not in the dictionary. –  Jeremy Dec 14 '12 at 0:05
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closed as not constructive by Jeremy, MετάEd, Robusto, StoneyB, Lynn Dec 14 '12 at 3:35

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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I know that it may sound tautological, but the defining difference between two different kinds of error is the kind of error: It depends on whether the writer's mistake was in believing that they were using the correct spelling, or the correct grammar.

For example, if the writer wrote "You're dog ate my homework!" in the honest belief that "You are dog ate my homework" was a grammatically correct sentence, then the error is one of grammar - but if they had written that thinking that "You're" was the correct spelling of the possessive, then the error is one of spelling.

So, it's not really possible to know what kind of error it is without asking the author what they meant - but I suspect in most cases it's not important to know what kind of error has been made, so long as you know how to correct it.

(Personally, I reckon that most misuses of "your" and "you're" are spelling mistakes, since they're homonyms and most English speakers I know would be able to expand the sentence correctly, but that's just my experience talking. Other people's experiences may differ.)

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I make this error from time to time, and I think your [sic] write [sic]. It's only a grammatical error if the writer wouldn't spot the error during a subsequent proofread, and theirs [sic] really know [sic] way to discern that at the time the error is spotted. –  J.R. Dec 14 '12 at 1:26
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