Tutorial Tuesday – Grammar: Its and It’s

Streamed live on Oct 30, 2012

Tuesday Tutorials…

Helping you with your grammar… one small tutorial at a time!

Rakestraw Book Design
http://rakestrawbookdesign.com/

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.

Its

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.

It’s

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!

Happy writing!

References:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves Illustrated Edition, by Lynne Truss
The Associated Press Guide To Punctuation, by Rene J. Cappon

What Editing Does For the Writer

.What Editing Does For the Writer

What Editing Does For the Writer… So, you’re a writer. You slave over your masterpiece. It is a part of you. It is part of your heart and soul. Why would you want to hand it over to some editor to cut to ribbons?

I don’t want to cut your masterpiece to ribbons. I want to hone it to a fine polish to make you look the very best you can look. Think of it as taking you out of your ragged blue jeans with the paint splotches on them and the torn tshirt and putting you into a nice outfit that shows off all of your best attributes. When we’re finished, your hair is done perfectly and you feel like a million bucks. You’re ready to take on the world. That is what I try to do to your manuscript.

I fix all the spelling errors (even spellcheck doesn’t get them all!). I fix the grammar and punctuation (except where it needs to remain awkward to make a point). I suggest ways to make the writing tighter and smoother. As the author, you always retain the right to dismiss any of my suggestions, but I hope you’ll be open enough to consider them.

I’m not a drill sergeant, living for the moment when I can scream orders at you. I have a gentle voice. One filled with nurturing suggestions. First, I read through your manuscript so I get the whole picture from beginning to end. Then, I slowly and carefully begin my work. I don’t want to supplant your voice with my own. I am happy to remain in the background. I may make suggestions on phrasing or different words you could try, but the ultimate rewriting should come from you. The manuscript is your baby, after all.

We can work together to make your book the best it can be. Doesn’t it bug you when you buy a book and it is full of sloppy errors? I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read that would have made a much better impression if they had been edited before they were published. No matter how good the story is, it is hard to get past those errors. I want your book to be as perfect as possible, so you don’t have to have readers write to you and point out simple errors. And they will. It is worth the extra effort to fact check anything technical. For example, I recently read a passage about a woman having an amniocentesis and finding out the sex of the baby. Unfortunately, in the book, they scheduled it at 13 weeks gestation, when in reality, amnios are only done between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. How would it have changed the story to move it ahead two weeks so it was accurate? Try as I might, I had a very hard time getting past this wrong timing. Now, perhaps only a few readers would be bothered by that, but I’ve spent years studying childbirth, so it really bothered me. Too bad, too… the story was good and well written.

If it isn’t childbirth, it will be something else. Maybe what kind of flowers bloom in June in Massachusetts, or perhaps when the storms hit on the Firth of Forth. Somewhere, someone will notice your inaccuracy. As an editor, it is my job to help you make your book so good that there are no errors for people to pick up. You want your readers to be so engrossed in your story that they can’t put it down; finding errors will wake them out of their thrall with your book. It can ruin the experience for them. Take the time and work with an editor. It is worth the effort and the cost

Your or You’re

I see this all the time. What’s more, I get it from my MS Word spell checker that invariably tells me I need to use the other one. It’s wrong! How they can program it wrong in Word is beyond me. Yet, when I’m writing an article and I say something like “get your pan…” it wants me to change it to you’re. Sigh. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder why these things happen except to exasperate me and others like me who appreciate a good piece of writing.

Your

Your is a possessive adjective. You use it when you want to say something belongs to someone.

Pick up your toys.

This implies that the toys belong to the person with which you are speaking.

You’re

You’re is a contraction of the words ‘you are.’ You only use this when you want to put those two words together.

You’re the love of my life.

You are the love of my life.

Get it? If you can’t replace you’re with you are, it is incorrect.

Keep this in mind, and your writing will improve by leaps and bounds. People will take you and your opinions more seriously if your writing is of good quality without these kinds of mistakes.