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The curse of the apostrophe

Posted on 27th October 2010

So, as a proofreader, needless to say, I fall firmly on the side of defending the use of the apostrophe and seeing the need for its continued use as essential to the English language. However, I also know that in this age of text speak (or should that be txt spk?) its use is getting diminished. I am also aware that people aren't taught how to use them, when and why so I am going on a mission over the next few blogs to try and come up with ideas on making it easier to know when to use one and when not!

The following is possibly one of the trickier rules to learn as it is one of the exceptions.

It's v Its

Technically, the difference is:

Its = possessive form, for example: the table had a mind of its own. (This is the exception to all possessive apostrophes - more on that next time.)

It's = the short version of it is, for example: it's freezing today (it is freezing today (which it is!)).

When I am in doubt about the its v it's apostrophe use, I have a tried and tested method that (touch wood) has worked so far.

EVERYTIME you read the word its or it's, say it out loud (or at least loudly in your head) and work out if it's meant to be its or it's i.e. say the full version it is and see if that works.

So, if you saw 'The table had a mind of it's own' and you read that in full, you would know that 'the table had a mind of it is own' is wrong, so you'd know to remove the apostrophe. Conversely, if you read the sentence 'Its freezing today' and you said it in full in your head, you'd know that it should be 'it is freezing today'.

I hope that's clear for you, if you have any doubts, email me.

Written by Kate Haigh.