Monday, January 28, 2008

Apostrophe Police: We need more officers

It’s the Thing About Its




The most common error I notice in writing involves the pesky apostrophe.

Signmakers mess up.

Advertising copy editors mess up.

Students mess up big time.


I’ve been worried that an entire percentage of the population has been traumatized by someone barking a spelling rule such as:


I before E
Except after C !!!!!!


(Except when you say
Neighbor or weigh)

...Not to mention the day
Someone gives you a lei

Or you strain your brain
When spelling reign)

English is peculiar that way.


APOSTROPHE GOOFS


Most kids were in school the day the teacher taught “Apostrophe Ess.”

Most kids were absent when The Reason Why got tacked on.

That day, week, month, the talk turned to possessives and plurals. But they were absent.

Hence, students who remember that a plural needs an ESS get all confused if a possessive word (mine) ends with an ESS (yours)

If ‘yours’ is possessive, then doesn’t it need an apostrophe? Like, “Is that Godsey’s dog or yours?” Is it already plural? What’s going on here?


What’s going on is those exceptions to the rules we were taught.

Sometimes it is hard to explain what the distinction is. Especially if we said, “Is that the Godseys’ dog?” Both Godseys claim to be the parents of Toby the Black Lab, you know. “Oh, no....ESS apostrophe???”

But here is the easy way to help people remember when to use ITS and when to use IT’S.


IT’S only ever means ‘IT IS.’ No exceptions.

The Contraction=It Is

IT’S the wrong time and the wrong place; the face is charming, but IT’S the wrong face.

IT’S my party and I’ll cry if I want to.

That’s the way IT’S going to be, and I don’t want to hear anymore whining.

I’m telling you, IT’S definitely her, only with a face lift.



Plain old ITS is possessive, just like HIS and HERS. Both HIS and HERS end in ESS, you see. Neither cause the confusion that ITS does.


ITS tires need rotating.

Her hair lost ITS curl.

The door fell off ITS hinges

The restaurant lost ITS license after the health inspector saw what was going on in the kitchen.


Please go forth and call these errors to the attention of all confused souls. IT'S one small thing we can do for people in times of turmoil and general confusion.

03/07/08------The Language Wrangler likes to be jarred out of complacency

Diane notes:
Great post, Beverly, but it's come to my attention that you've forgotten one other possible meaning of "it's;" while almost never mentioned, it's also commonly used to stand in for "it has."

"That package you were waiting for? It's arrived."


-0-



2 comments:

Bill Klein said...

A very good peice. Its nice to see that someone cares about the Engalish langauge and all it's pecueliaritys.
- Billl

Diane said...

Great post, Beverly, but it's come to my attention that you've forgotten one other possible meaning of "it's;" while almost never mentioned, it's also commonly used to stand in for "it has."

"That package you were waiting for? It's arrived."

--Diane, fellow language weenie*

*"2. Among hackers, when used with a qualifier (for example, as in Unix weenie, VMS weenie, IBM weenie) this can be either an insult or a term of praise, depending on context, tone of voice, and whether or not it is applied by a person who considers him or herself to be the same sort of weenie. It implies that the weenie has put a major investment of time, effort and concentration into the area indicated; whether this is good or bad depends on the hearer's judgment of how the speaker feels about that area. See also bigot."

( weenie. (n.d.). The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing. Retrieved February 09, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/weenie )