Streamed live on Oct 30, 2012
Helping you with your grammar… one small tutorial at a time!
Okay. You’re writing and suddenly you can’t remember if you need it’s or its. When in doubt, use the apostrophe, right? WRONG. There is a simple way to double check if you’re using the right version.
This is possessive. Unlike most possessive words like Mom’s flowers, Sarah’s jeans or the man’s tie, when you use the possessive of it you don’t use an apostrophe. Why? Because the apostrophe is already being used in the other form… see the next paragraph.
For example: The dog chewed its food carefully instead of gulping.
This is NOT possessive. This is a contraction of the words ‘it is.’ If you can replace ‘it’s’ in your sentence with ‘it is,’ use the apostrophe.
For example: It’s not my fault the cat escaped when the door was open.
This can also be written: It is not my fault the cat escaped when the door was open.
This is the contraction version, so use the apostrophe.
Is it all clear? This is a simple rule to remember, so there won’t be any trouble figuring out which one to use in the future when you write. Just ask yourself that little question… can I replace it with ‘it is’? If not, you are probably using it as a possessive, which means… all together now…. no apostrophe!
Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss
The Associated Press Guide to Punctuation, by Rene J. Cappon