Saturday, November 19, 2011

Apostrophe Abuse Hall of Shame: It's vs. Its

From the CD comments and other sources:

1. No one mentioned that Brazil makes it's ethanol from sugar cane.

2. feed it's refineries in the Chicago area...

3. The article is using the example as it's opening wedge....

4. .....if North Dakota continues on it's rampage of oil production the pipeline will...

5.  Exxon is also in the oil sands and wants to move it's product.

6. will turn sleepy backwaters into boomtowns and it's direct effect will be felt for a couple of years.

7. Governor Jack Dalrymple says the oil boom is in it's peak and things will slow down.

Here's the simple, very basic grammar rule for it's vs. its. 


At 11/19/2011 6:26 PM, Blogger Chris Burrows said...

Sounds like it's hard to get people to follow!
I wonder if they get confused with possessive or plural rules?

At 11/19/2011 6:57 PM, Blogger Craig Howard said...

I wonder if they get confused with possessive or plural rules?

I have tried to explain plural vs. possessive to more than a few people over the years with excruciatingly frustrating results. I don't know what English teachers are doing these days.

And don't even get me started on objects of a preposition; it's just all very confusing to you and I, isn't it?

At 11/19/2011 9:42 PM, Blogger Alan said...

We'd be better off without apostrophes, or at least with limiting them to abbreviations. German used to get along just fine without using an apostrophe before or after an "s" to indicate a possessive. Unfortunately, the Germans have recently started using possessive apostrophes in some advertising signs. I blame McDonald's. They'll be sorry.

My sister, who used to teach third grade, thinks the problem in this country exists because possessive apostrophes are introduced too early. The kids don't understand them, so what they take away from this is "now the teacher wants us to put an apostrophe before a letter "s." Hard habit to break.

At 11/19/2011 10:25 PM, Blogger Dan Patterson said...

Guilty but corrected.
May we now defend the often assaulted hopefully, and the newly distressed less vs. fewer, please.

At 11/20/2011 4:01 AM, Blogger Michael E. Marotta said...

I gave up hope on less versus fewer because I hear the error on NPR.

As a technical writer, I was working with some programmers, one of whom wrote poorly. We went back and forth; and finally he offered this, which I made into a poster for my office.

Jeff: These rules, are they written down?
Mike: Yes, of course.
Jeff: Which comes first? Does someone make up new rules to follow?
Mike: No, the language changes and when the changes are accepted, they become rules.
Jeff: So, if you follow the manual, you are not using the current version.

The apostrophe is to show missing letters in an abbreviation. How it came to signify the possessive is singular. On the same theme, when I started writing user manuals in the mid-1980s, I dropped the apostrophe from dates.

At 11/20/2011 8:39 AM, Blogger Dad said...


Jeff is very clever, if ungrammatical.

Someone needs to get to work on phenomena/phenomenon and media/medium. Though, really, I just may not be using the "current version."

My favorite on it's vs. its and likewise yours and theirs:

"It's is not, it isn't ain't, and it's it's, not its, if you mean it is. If you don't, it's its.
Then too, it's hers. It isn't her's. It isn't our's either. It's ours, and likewise yours
and theirs."

At 11/20/2011 1:50 PM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Alan: "My sister, who used to teach third grade, thinks the problem in this country exists because possessive apostrophes are introduced too early."

Third graders don't have any trouble speaking with the possessive. Why not just make them write without contractions (i.e., always write out 'it is') until they learn the difference.

At 11/20/2011 2:35 PM, Blogger Zachriel said...

'Tis true: 'tis true 'tis pity;
And pity 'tis 'tis true

At 11/20/2011 2:41 PM, Blogger MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

Its apparent your annoyed by there apostrophe abuse. (ha!)

Anecdote alert.

I came across an online word game at Yahoo! called "Text Twist" a couple of years ago. Six random letters appear on the screen and the player has two minutes to identify all of the three letter, four letter, five letter, and six letter words that can be created from the six letters. The first few times I played it I almost always identified the 6 letter words. But I was amazed (and embarrassed) by how often I would forget the small common words like "the" "its" "she", etc.

My theory is that our brain processes these small words so naturally and so frequently that they hardly even register when we read them. But when they are missing from a sentence it does register with the brain that something isn't quite right.

So I bet there's a fair number of people who know the rules for "its" vs. "it's" but in their haste in the initial draft chose the wrong version. Then when (if) they go back to proofread what they wrote, in the micro-second it takes for the brain to see that one of the two versions of "its" is where it should be, it may not register with the brain that the writer used the incorrect version.

That's my elaborate excuse for my offenses anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

At 11/21/2011 9:21 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

Its amazing to me people cannot obey these simple rules.

At 11/21/2011 10:02 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Hydra: "Its amazing to me people cannot obey these simple rules."

What's really amazing is that all of these rules and structure evolve naturally, without any legislative, executive or judicial decrees.

At 11/21/2011 6:55 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Its amazing to me people cannot obey these simple rules."

Some people don't understand grammar, others don't understand economics.


Post a Comment

<< Home