It’s a problem

I often puzzle over the misuse of its and it’s. How can one little word (or rather one little word and one little contraction) give people such fits? It’s easy to mistype these words, but I think a lot of people find the distinction confusing.

The only way to be sure that you have used the right version of the word is to ask yourself whether you mean “it is” (it’s) or “something belonging to it” (its). If you have a problem with “it’s” and “its,” you should stop on every use of these words and ask this question. It’s the only way. (Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checker stops on these words, so use that feature to your advantage to take a second look at your typing and your word use.)

Another helpful clue to store in your memory bank is that no possessive pronouns use apostrophes — none. (Think of his, her/hers, your/yours, my/mine, their/theirs and its — no apostrophes!) You should pound this into your head. It’s important to remember.

Here are some examples of this problem:

The PDA sits in it’s own cradle. (We mean to use the possessive here so we need “its.”)

This year it was viewed as a handicap with the network tumbling to an unprecedented fourth place in the ratings. NBC wants a chance to react to its’ rivals plans. (Oh, the writer was confused on this one! The word should be “its” without that apostrophe.)

Remember to enter each ad separately and in it’s proper order. (We need the possessive again — “its.”)

Its high time we put this matter to rest. (Use the contraction here — “it’s.”)

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.