Secret Mojo Dumbs It Down for You

August 5, 2006

It’s not “it’s”; its “it’s” is its

Filed under: rants,writing — secretmojo @ 7:36 pm

Okay. Pet peeve time.

Stop putting apostrophes on its! I know it’s [hehe] confusing, but please stop, because you are using the wrong word.

I don’t paint my house read. Nor do I put another read in my oboe two play it. We don’t lower hour standards with other words just because what wee sea sounds like what won here’s—because it’s [hehe] a matter of clarity, not snobbery. So give its its [hehe] meaning back, please. Avoid the apostrophe.

Let me clarify, if you don’t get it.

It is. This is it’s with its [hehe] “i” reclaimed. In rarer cases, it’s means it has. Never mind that saving an extra letter through contraciton is miserly. It’s allows a more casual conversation. That’s it’s’s [hehe] forte, as it were.

Just like any other contraction, it’s smooshes two words together: it and is. This is its [hehe] only function: as a contraction. Don’t is do not, can’t is can not, who’s is who is, and it’s is it is. It’s [hehe] that simple. If you use it’s, but do not mean it is, you are using the wrong word.

Now, let me introduce some confusion (if I haven’t already). When my friend owns a book, it is Bob’s book. Simple? Apostrophe-s. Larry’s pompadour, dog’s bite, Mojo’s pet peeve. The possessive uses ’s. I don’t want to confuse the reader into thinking I’m talking about many Larrys or dogs or Mojos, so I employ the apostrophe.

So if my chair has a lump in it, I say “It’s lump is killing me,” right?

Wrong. Repeat five times: When you use it’s and do not mean it is, you are using the wrong word.

More confusion: Mojo’s going on a rant. This means “Mojo is.” I know, I know, there’s no difference between contraction and possession with nouns, so why bother with it’s? Look, the English language is confusing enough as it is: you go on a bus, in a car, but to a ball park. We need all the clarity we can get. Besides, it’s was developed before we started using the ’s contraction for every noun on the planet, so give it’s a break.

Now: its. This is ownership. No less, no more. We have his and hers for sexed possession, and use its for non-sexed possesion. The dog chased its tail. I don’t like its color. When its meaning became clear to me, it ruined all shoddy technical documentation forever.

The point isn’t formality, but clarity. Consider this mistake: “It’s dancing is the best dancing I’ve ever seen.” I literally have to read again to grasp its [hehe] meaning. First I believe that it is dancing, but then I see “is” and wonder “dude, where’d that second verb come from?”, then I read “the best…” and realize the author used the wrong its, go back, mentally strip the apostrophe, and read again. So please, no complaints that I’m a grammar nazi. I am not. I’m just sick of reading sentences twice.

In fact, all you have to remember is rule #1: if you mean it is, use it’s. (think of the apostrophe as the dot of the missing i, if you must). Otherwise, use its. Easy!

If you’re still confused, expand and read your sentences: “The guitar hit it’s highest note,” becomes “The guitar hit it is highest note.” Yuck!

If expansion does not sound right, then you’ve screwed up. Take the apostrophe off, dangit!

To test its, you can replace with “her”: “Its hot outside” becomes “Her hot outside,” which sounds like caveman talk. But “The city lost its innocence” becomes “The city lost her innocence”, which does not sound entirely weird, so is okay. Try these techniques on the following, if you’re still confused:

“Its wanting us to come in.” — correct or incorrect?

“Its ugliness scared us all.” — correct or incorrect?

“Are you going to touch it’s paw?” — correct or incorrect?

“It’s hit its funny bone; that’s the reason why it’s cringing.” — correct or incorrect?

So please, give its its [hehe] meaning back; don’t let its [hehe] evil brother, it’s, steal its [hehe] identity. Believe me, it’s [hehe] worth it.

Whew.

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