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May 30, 2006

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» http://www.researchandwritinglawblog.com/archives/general-legal-writing-75-.html from Research and Writing Blog
Lynn Gaertner-Johnston at businesswritingblog addresses one of my biggest pet peeves – the use of “its” and “it’s.” How many times have I seen these words misused in very public writings such as billboards, form business documents and advertisements?.... [Read More]

Comments

manny

I have also trouble using its and it's before until now a very simple and fairly explanation.

Thanks Lynn

Manny

Friday

Thank you. I consider myself to be very literate, and still I find that I over think this. Now I will remember.

BabyFavorite

Thank you for this! For some reason, "its" is rarely used correctly. In fact, I just had to show my (know-it-all) 10-year-old daughter that "it's" really is ONLY a contraction (by showing her what you wrote).

Lynn

Glad to be of help with your know-it-all!

Art101

Thanks for this clarification! It's great to find your website via a google search for its'. I've bookmarked your site for further exploration and reference. Cheers.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Glad to be of help!

Lynn

Chalana

suppose this tips will help me a lot for my day to day operation

Olivia

Thanks! This was very clear, concise and helpful.

Ksana

Thank you! We adjusted our texts accordingly!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

I am pleased to have helped you.

Lynn

John Hull

Thanks Lynn. I very nearly sent off a letter using its' as the possessive form.

Possessive

It should be noted that the original possessive form was "it's", WITH an apostrophe, formed in the same way as "one's", and that removing the apostrophe in the 1800s was highly illogical. No wonder so many people have trouble with it.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Thank you for sharing that historical information.

Lynn

Yuzu Yuri

oh, I love this! ^^ Thank you so much! :)

Cobalt Lion

Thank you for posting that. Good, concise grammatical information is important to communication in both bussiness and science.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Yuzu and Cobalt, thank you for sharing your appreciation.

Lynn

"Doris"

Oh, my...never its', hmm? You saved me from what would have been an embarrassing blunder (on a cover letter to a prospective employer, no less)! This simple rule is now indelibly etched in my poor, wrinkled brain, thanks to your (not you're, haha), non-stress inducing clarification. God bless your heart!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Doris. I am glad to have saved you in a high-stakes situation.

Thank you for taking the time to share your appreciation and blessing.

Lynn

Margaret

I thought that Its' was the possesive form :-belonging to it. I know it's is the abbreviation of it is.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hello, Margaret.

I hope it's clear to you now!

Lynn

D

I thoroughly respect your position.
But, I completely refuse to relinquish my Its' as incorrect.
I am post-graduate educated and no stranger to academic monograph or incredibly boring peer-reviewed text in highest formal English.
Yet, if one compares English to its' mother German- we have many conflicting rules that have neve been resolved nor standardized. Typical Engilsh arse-ing about- and no that's not considered a swear-word in UK [although the former presented singularly, is]. Spelling is one example and lexography/orthography another.

Our rules for colons, commas and apostrophes are a dog's breakfast.
Secondly my argument is the inconsistency of breaking with the attribution quality of the apostrophe.
The apostrophe clarifies attribution and possession well-as you've described.
However, I argue it's more clear to retain its' as an identifier of attribution/possession than if one omitted the "its'" apostrophe.

I borrow your examples:
You can recognize Rene's music by its abrupt tempo changes.
[the inamanimate]
The golden retriever is known for ITS' gentle personality.
[animate]
Gene's enthusiasm for golfing has been lost.
animate possessive.
Thus, it's perfectly clear than when possession requires clarification- the its' does a wonderful job without breaking with apostrophic convention
Cringe as you might, but being educated with the "rules", or more accurately the mass consensus [sic: logical fallacy] of "conventions" of English grammar (being a dogs' breakfast as I described] I choose to break with the rules in order to be more consistent.
I shall be that brushfire of the minds that cries "Never! I refuse to yield to ridiculous, contradictory, arbitrary English grammar rules contrived after the fact!"
Its' has a place in my heart and I argue a legitimate place on academic literature, as much as Jefferson's "its" when he meant "it's".
PS- I know this particular comment must be driving you mad. It's' meant to.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

In that case, D, you must agree with these incorrect constructions:

hers'
his'
theirs'
ours'
yours'

I hope your insistence on following your own punctuation path does not get in the way of your success.

Lynn

Kalena Black

Thank you so much for this. I'm sitting here writing an essay, and kept stumbling over this issue. Thank you for clarifying it!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Kalena. Try to teach the rule to someone else now. That will help you retain it.

Lynn

Karan

Lynn can you teach the basic rules of grammar??

David Dean

Oh well, my educated relative began her Master's thesis with Charles Town and its people spelled wrongly and that is usually checked before printing. As it has had seven reprints already this shows how prevalent this mistake is.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Karan. I cover many of the basic rules of grammar on this blog. Just type what you are looking for in the search box at top right. Or click on the category at right called Grammar and Usage to scroll through all my posts on grammar.

Lynn

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hello, David Dean. "Charles Town and Its People" is correct without the apostrophe.

Lynn

Wendell K. Turbo

Dear Lynn,

It's been a true pleasure reading your blog on 'its, it's & its''.

Talking about it, its' becomes a real reference, though lacking a grammatical correctness, it's possible to refer to it.
Its use, now:

Its''s is used correctly if you are contracting the sentence: "its' is never correct.".

...and further

It's's is used correctly if you are contracting the sentence: "It's is the contraction of "it is" and "it has".

Its's is the form to use if you're contracting: “Its is the form to use in all other instances when you want a form of i-t-s but you are not sure which one. ”

Its''s's is used correctly if you are contracting the sentence: 'its''s is used correctly'


I am confident we can create ever larger systems of ''s and s''' by contraction and its ungrammaticality.

Sincerely Yours'
Wendell K. Turbo

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Wendell. Thanks for your detailed comment. Despite your interesting examples, I never want to use the forms you covered. They are too confusing. Business writing is too filled with opportunities for miscommunication to pile contractions upon contractions and upon misused words.

I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I opt for simpler structures.

Lynn

Buddy

I would say this has become the common usage but it's is still correct because it follows Early Modern English usage. Most people do not know the reason why we use the possessive contraction the way we do. In fact, from a 16th and 17th century point of view we can never use a feminine possessive contraction.
The contraction (correctly used in the masculine) is from "his". Thus, father's is actually contracting the phrase father his, as in "This is my father, his house."

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hello, Buddy. Thank you for commenting. I am afraid "it's" is not correct as a possessive form, at least not in U.S. English. Things that were correct in Early Modern English usage are not necessarily correct today.

I apologize if I have misunderstood your point.

Can you please cite your source or sources?

Lynn

Kim

Thank You. That was a great explanation.

GarnettGlam

Thank you for your explanation. I was taught in school to use It's and Its' but now that I know my teacher was wrong and Its' is never correct you've cleared up quite a lot.

Mitch Wagner

Oy! Some of your readers really need your advice! I cannot believe their naïveté.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Mitch. Is there a chance that you might need advice on being supportive rather than critical?

Oops! Perhaps I have slipped into being critical myself.

Lynn

Jerry Ness

"Its' is never correct."

If this is true can you help me understand why this is what I was taught in Grammar School in the 1950s? Thanks.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Jerry. I don't have a definitive answer for you. Even now, people in my business writing classes tell me they learned things in college--recently--that are not correct. Sometimes teachers are misinformed. I myself have shared a couple of ideas that turned out to be wrong--or at least not completely correct. It happens.

On the other hand, sometimes people interpret what a teacher has said in a way that the teacher did not intend. So the lesson is learned the wrong way.

Let's look to the future! I believe you will be fine if you eliminate ITS' from your writing toolbox.

Lynn

Karen

Hi,

I understand that " its' " is never used but now grammar check in word is telling me that it is a reflexive pronoun and wants me to revise the wording. The sentence is "This success has not happened on its own...". What to do?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Karen. Your sentence is correct. In that context, "its" is a possessive pronoun used as an adjective, or simply a possessive adjective.

Stand firm no matter what your grammar check suggests!

Lynn

Anonymous

While I accept that the possessive form of "it" is "its", your explanation on the rationale seems to be somewhat in error. "Its", as commonly used, is a normally a possessive adjective, not a possessive pronoun. Used in the same common grammatical context, "its" is not a parallel to "hers", "ours", "theirs", or "yours".

For example, for the following sentence structure, I could write "He saw its shadow", but I would never write "He saw hers shadow". The correct form would be "He saw her shadow", or "He saw your shadow", or "He saw their shadows". To use the other form, I would have to rewrite the sentence as "The shadow he saw was hers" or "The shadows he saw were theirs" so that there was an antecedent to reference.

The only one which is a direct parallel is "his", where you can indeed do a direct substitution to form "He saw his shadow", because the possessive adjective and possessive pronoun forms are the same.

While I could use "its" as a possessive pronoun (as in, "His shadow was long. Its was short."), it's far less common than its usage as a possessive adjective, which is where more mistakes are made.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hello, "Anonymous." Thanks for your comment. I use the "his, hers, ours, yours, theirs" examples because they make it easy for people to understand how "its" can be correct as a possessive.

I may add a clarifying sentence about parts of speech to the post above, but I do not want to detract from the simple memory device.

Lynn

Kelly

Enjoy Weird Al's new song about grammar.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Thanks for the link, Kelly. The video is very funny, and people who already enjoy grammar issues will appreciate it.

Lynn

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