Punctuality Rules!

It’s Just Another Mangled Monday

It’s Just Another Mangled Monday


Welcome to the first installment of the weekly category, “Mangled Monday.” Here, each week, we will address some kind of commonly misused rule–spelling, punctuation, basic courtesy–whatever, as the whim strikes.

Today, it’s all about “its.” A simple little word that seems to cause lots of confusion.

Really, it’s very simple.

It’s” is a contraction of two words, “It is.”

Its” is the possessive form, used for things like, “The table lost its leg.”

I grant you that the apostrophe followed by an “S” is commonly used to denote possession, as in, “The table’s leg.” However, this is one of the many little quirks of the English language we’ve all come to know and love, because an apostrophe-S is also used to abbreviate the verb “to be,” as in, “He’s coming to the door right now.”

The simple rule of thumb?

If you are trying to say “it is,” you’re combining two words and must use the apostrophe. It helps hold them together, taking the place of the “i.” If you squint a little, it almost looks like a short, little “i,” don’t you think? (Okay, maybe not, but work with me here.)

If you are trying to express possession, you do not use the apostrophe, any more than you would when saying “hers” or “his.” Those three–his, hers, its–are like family and share the same spelling rule.

10 thoughts on “It’s Just Another Mangled Monday

  1. Judy H.

    I’m so glad to see tangible proof that I’m not the only one who cares about these things! Sometimes I feel like no one else out there gives a rip about punctuation, spelling, grammer … you know, petty things like those!

  2. Debby

    A woman after my own heart. This is a particular pet peeve of mine, along with yours and theirs. 🙂

    I think the Lynne Truss books were popular for a reason. A lot of us are frustrated with the lack of spelling and grammar and politeness these days.

  3. Laura

    Debby said it, “A woman after my own heart.” I just read about your new blog on Booking through Thursday. I love it, have added it to my Google Reader, and am passing it on to an equally grammar-obsessed friend. Thanks!!

  4. Judy G.

    It makes me increasingly crazy to see my local newspaper misspelling “its” and “it’s”, but one of my personal favourites is “its’ “. I suppose it’s a case of “when in doubt, put in an apostrophe”. That loud noise you hear is the collapsing of the English language.

  5. J

    When I was in college, I had a 6-unit International Relations class where the professor told us that if we once used ‘it’s’ when we meant ‘its’, or vice-versa, we would get an F on that paper. I was mostly cured from that moment on.

    Sometimes happens still, but it’s a typo, not a misunderstanding.

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