Grammar Lesson #1: It’s vs. Its

Okay, so I’m rereading Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss (description on the Bookshelf), a book about punctuation. You’d think the book would be a little dry, right? Well, you’re wrong.

Truss’s prose overflows with British wit and sarcasm, and I just reached a passage that actually made me laugh out loud. I decided I should share it with you, so I’m including the excerpt below. All you need to know is that the target audience for this book comprises mostly grammar sticklers, such as Truss…

“To those who care about punctuation, a sentence such as ‘Thank God its Friday’ (without the apostrophe) rouses feelings not only of despair but of violence. The confusion of the possessive ‘its’ (no apostrophe) with the contractive ‘it’s’ (with apostrophe) is an unequivocal signal of illiteracy and sets off a simple Pavlovian ‘kill’ response in the average stickler. The rule is: the word ‘it’s’ (with apostrophe) stands for ‘it is’ or ‘it has.’ If the word does not stand for ‘it is’ or ‘it has’ then what you require is ‘its.’ This is extremely easy to grasp. Getting your itses mixed up is the greatest solecism in the world of punctuation. No matter that you have a PhD and have read all of Henry James twice. If you still persist in writing, ‘Good food at it’s best,’ you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot, and buried in an unmarked grave.” (44)

On that resounding note, make sure you proofread carefully–especially if a grammar stickler will be reading your work!

Works cited:

Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

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