Thursday, September 13, 2007

It's Versus Its: One Simple Rule

Today I address a topic surprises me at least once a day when I’m on-line: people cannot keep straight the difference between its and it’s. Even sites for writers include posts where someone explains to a hapless newbie, “Its the difference between getting published and not” or, “Each paragraph should have it’s own focus.”

The teachers who pounded the possessive-apostrophe rule into most folks’ heads did them no good. That rule only holds true if you are using a noun. When using a pronoun (he, she, it, you, them, they, etc.) you use no apostrophe to indicate possession. If you did, you’d write hi’s, her’s, their’s, and so on.

That’s my tip for today: pronouns don’t have apostrophes. His, hers, theirs, whose, your, its – all of these indicate possession without that pesky little hanging tail. This simple rule

The apostrophe in “it’s” indicates that the writer has left out a letter or two. It’s a contraction of “it has”, “it was”, or “it is”. If you see a pronoun with an apostrophe, it indicates a contraction – “It’s my car” means “It is my car.”

As I have previously advised, eliminate doubt by removing contractions until the rule becomes second nature. Any apostrophes you have left either mark an error or show that a noun possesses something.




Thanks for that. It's one of my pet peeves, too.

Now, how about addressing the fact that 'alot' is not a word (at least in English). I can't tell you how often I read things written by educated, literate people who still insist on saying "I like it alot."




I am guilty of that one! I try to catch myself. It's such a non-specific term, as well as not being a word. At least I usually remember to say, "I like it lots." [snerk]