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Misuse of “It’s” Versus “Its” “Sets Off Pavlovian ‘Kill’ Response”

Misuse of “It’s” Versus “Its” “Sets Off Pavlovian ‘Kill’ Response”

Grammar guru Lynne Truss reminded me of the location of my “last nerve”, at least regarding mispunctuation (I checked – it’s in the Random House Dictionary), in the February 27, 2009 entry of my Eats, Shoots & Leaves 365-day calendar. Ms. Truss does not mince words when she states:

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.

I know it’s not cool to respond to an email which enthusiastically announces, “You’ve got to come to this very important meeting. Its next Wednesday at my house, which has it’s own hot tub big enough to seat eight!” with a blunt “Don’t write. You’re an illiterate. (But can I come sit in your hot tub anyway?)” — but when you’re an average stickler foaming at the mouth, it’s an almost irresistible temptation.

Simple tests: Does the sentence make sense if you replace “it’s” with “it is”? Does the sentence make no sense if “its” is not replaced with “it is”?

3 Responses to Misuse of “It’s” Versus “Its” “Sets Off Pavlovian ‘Kill’ Response”

  1. I always get irritated with people that impoperly add the ‘ but am not concerned if people send a non-legal document without the ‘. I assume they are just writing shorthand.

  2. I feel the same, but my ultimate pet peeve is when people confuse “there” with “their” and vice versa. The occasional lapse is fine, but when it is a habit measures should be taken.

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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