Archive for August, 2008

“It’s” vs. “Its”

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

As I was explaining the difference between “can I” and “may I” to a rather stubborn granddaughter, her brother announced for all the world that “Grandma is the grammar police.” Alas, I confess that on certain subjects I can be very much the grammar police.

I tell you that to warn you, dear reader, that I am moving into “grammar police” mode for this post.

The pesky little apostrophe serves a dual purpose. First, it combines contractions. A contraction, as you probably already know, is the combination of two words into one, as in “do not” to “don’t” or “can not” to “can’t.” The apostrophe is there to indicate where the missing letters are.

But, just to confuse things, an apostrophe is also used to indicate the possessive form of a noun or a pronoun. And “it” is a pronoun.

The correct form of the contraction “it is” is to use the apostrophe, as in “it’s.”

The correct form of the possessive for the pronoun “it” should also have an apostrophe, but, contrary to all the rules you learned about possessives, it does not. In order to indicate whether the contraction or the possessive is being used, the apostrophe is NOT used when “it” is written in the possessive.

So . . . when writing “it’s” to mean “it is,” use the apostrophe. When writing “its” to indicate possessive, do NOT use the apostrophe, as demonstrated in the following sentences:

It’s [contraction] beginning to rain and the chair is going to get wet. Please put its [possessive] cover on quickly.”

In the course of your job search, you will be sending out resumes and cover letters, and you may be tempted to add or remove the “its” apostrophe incorrectly. In addition, you will undoubtedly be composing correspondence and e-mail at some point as part of your job responsibilities. Knowing the correct form is ALWAYS good form.

And please do not complain to me about this. It was determined by grammar police who are far higher on the pecking order than I will ever be. Ours is not to reason why . . .

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2010, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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