The Dreaded Apostrophe

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"The confusion of the possessive 'its' (no apostrophe) with the contractive 'it's' (with apostrophe) is an unequivocal signal of illiteracy and set off a simple Pavlovian 'kill' response in the average stickler.  The rule is: the word 'it's' (with apostrophe) stands for 'it is' or 'it has'.  If the word does not stand for 'it is' or 'it has' then what you require is 'its'.  This is extremely easy to grasp," (Truss 43).

I have to say right now: Lynne Truss is my hero.

The "its/it's" apostrophe misuse is probably one of my biggest pet peeves (besides people pronouncing the "s" at the end of "Illinois". Seriously, it's silent, people!).  To me, "it's" and "its" is extremely simple and it completely irks and confuses me that people don't understand when to use them properly. As Truss says, "it's" stands for "it is/it has".  If you can't replace "it's" with "it is" or "it has", then don't use the apostrophe.  That's how I was taught to use it, so maybe that's how people should learn and remember it. 

And I have to agree -- the misuse of the apostrophe does set off the Pavlovian "kill" instinct in me.  Or at least the urge to hit someone over the head with a large, preferably heavy, book.

2 Comments

Greta Carroll said:

Haha, Ally, I completely agree, it is a very easy concept. I’ve never been able to understand why it is so hard for people to understand it. It is just common sense. But it’s the same thing with their/there/they’re or a myriad of other such things, people mix them up all the time. And it drives me crazy. I understand that everyone messes up sometimes, but some people do it consistently all the time! And I could understand if it was something hard, but it just not difficult to get it right! (and I'm sorry about the butchering of Illinois, I can definitely see why that annoys you).

That's the way to talk. Let's all throw the book at punctuation sinners! (When we're not dodging the books thrown at us!)

I'm suddenly feeling confessional. I can't say the words "statistics." More than half of the time, it comes out with an extra S -- "sta-STIS-tics." So I have to slow down and concentrate when I'm about to use the words. I find it's a similar thing with punctuation.

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