Thursday, February 16, 2012

Another Spelling/Grammar/Punctuation Rant on It's vs. Its: Maybe It's Time to Just Change the Rule?

From the comments section:

...convinced the agency to now give energy it's due....

...has been abandoning it's libertarian bearings over the last couple of years...

...is Cuba is prepared to allow it's citizens…

… or what it’s impacts are likely to be...

...The Fed has the ability to manipulate the rate toward it's target...

...in it's current incarnation, wind power makes no sense...

...is definitely it's own economy...

...more than twice it's current value...

...which abandoned it's socialist leadership...

Bottom Line: Since this simple spelling/punctuation rule seem's so difficult for so many, maybe its' time to just change the rule?

Update: I don't know if anybody has ever done research on this, but I would think that the misuse of "it's" has to be the most frequent grammar/spelling/punctuation mistake in the English language, and it's become a hobby of mine to document it.  There's actually an organization in the U.K. called the Apostrophe Protection Society, with "the specific aim of preserving the correct use of this currently much abused punctuation mark in all forms of text written in the English language," so at least I'm not the only one fascinated/obsessed about this.....

28 Comments:

At 2/16/2012 11:15 AM, Blogger Andy said...

People...it's very simple. You don't use an apostrophe unless your use of "it's" can be replaced with "it is". That's all. It's not that difficult.

Its = possessive
It's = it is

 
At 2/16/2012 11:47 AM, Blogger kent said...

Stand firm, never give up.

 
At 2/16/2012 11:48 AM, Blogger Bruce Oksol - oksol@yahoo.com said...

1. One needs to consider the source of the comments.

2. Many folks type comments very quickly; can't edit comments. I find I make errors in my blog; my comments.

3. The iPad automatically corrects "its" to "it's" I believe -- I haven't been on iPad for a day or two; can't remember.

But I wouldn't use comments as source of data for much of anything.

 
At 2/16/2012 12:08 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

it's funny, but this is a mistake i only ever make typing.

i would never do it longhand.

i think it's just a function of trying to type a bit faster than you think.

that said, i type like an epileptic money with mittens on anyhow. if it were not for spellcheck in firefox, just how badly would become abundantly clear....

 
At 2/16/2012 12:24 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

The first rule of written communication is that the coder (writer) and the decoder (reader) understand the message with none of the context that is available in face-to-face communication. Do you speak "it's" and "its" differently? I don't.

We used knowing and using proper punctuation to decide whether to place students in college English 101 or an English preparatory class 090 when I worked in the college writing center as a tutor. "It's" and "its" can be a marker of educational attainment if people are trying to write the best that they know how to write. There are many other areas that students struggle with attempting to transition from high school to college writing (especially English as second language (ESL) students).

I think people make the "it's" and "its" mistake for one or all of three reasons: 1) they don't know any better, 2) they miss it in haste, or 3) they don't care because either one works.

 
At 2/16/2012 12:32 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

morganovichs punctuation is a perfect example of written communication that serves his and our purpose if you fixated on his lack of capitalization you would miss his excellent viewpoints

 
At 2/16/2012 12:40 PM, Blogger gadfly said...

Your next punctuation lesson should explain how to use "close quotation marks" at the end of sentences where there are also (parenthesis marks) with which to contend. Whew, I had to work hard to avoid ending that sentence with a preposition!

 
At 2/16/2012 12:51 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

down with the imperialism of capital letters!

fwiw, i just happen to enjoy deliberately flouting that convention. i'm not really sure why.

obviously, i don't do so in formal communications, but i kind of view it like kicking your shoes off when you get home.

it's just comfy.

with "it's", frankly, i'm so glad to have hit the apostrophe instead of the semicolon when typing that my proofing generally ends there.

 
At 2/16/2012 1:07 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Say I'm talking about the dog. If it's correct to write "the dog's toys", and if I later reference dog as "it", then it = dog, and "it's toys" makes perfect sense.

I actually think it's more sound to use it's as possessive, and there shouldn't be a contraction for the word "it" because the word is already a shorthand contraction of whatever is being referenced, and "it is" is trivially shorter than "it's".

 
At 2/16/2012 1:31 PM, Blogger Joe said...

My wife, who speaks English as a second language, makes mistakes like this (confusing it's/its, they're/their/there, who's/whose, etc) much less than I do. I think the reason is because, since she thinks in Turkish, such words are totally different. Whereas for me, whose first language is English, and who learned by speaking for years before learning how to write, I, like all native speakers, think in terms of English, and particular spoken English. Thus, we native speakers will confuse these all the time, though we can usually catch ourselves if we're careful.

 
At 2/16/2012 1:49 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Doug, Doug, Doug,

You expect written and spoken English to make sense? :)

Joe,

The articles of "a" and "the" are especially problematic for ESL writers/speakers. They often omit them where they should be and add them where they do not belong. We laugh at some of their quirks, but we need to remember many of them know two languages and we only know one.

 
At 2/16/2012 1:53 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Like morganovich, I only ever make this mistake when typing. I don't believe I've ever had a problem when speaking.

Don't give up, Prof Perry, thanks to you, I have learned this simple rule, even if I occasionally forget it.

What else can you teach us?

Capitalization might not prove very rewarding.

 
At 2/16/2012 1:58 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"fwiw, i just happen to enjoy deliberately flouting that convention. i'm not really sure why."

You hated your third grade teacher, and have caused her constant misery ever since.

 
At 2/16/2012 2:29 PM, Blogger kmg said...

Prof. Perry,

Surely you know that public schools don't teach these things nowadays.

California recently passed a law mandating the teaching of gay history in public schools from 1st grade. CA legislators don't have more pressing things to address, apparently.

 
At 2/16/2012 2:41 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Bottom Line: Since this simple spelling/punctuation rule seem's so difficult for so many, maybe its' time to just change the rule?

I get on my kids about punctuation and spelling all the time. They point out that when you are busy texting and writing comments all that matters is getting the idea across. They know the rules but sometimes their fingers move faster than their brains. As such, most of the errors are not out of ignorance but of speed.

Since blogs are not journals and comments are not academic papers some people may be overreacting.

 
At 2/16/2012 2:53 PM, Blogger spotteddog said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/16/2012 2:54 PM, Blogger spotteddog said...

I had a math prof in college (from Iran) that would actually say "it is" for the possesive form "its".

 
At 2/16/2012 3:41 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

First known use of the apostrophe occured as a feature of style in Homer.

First useage in English language was in the 1530s.

From " apostrophus, from Gk. apostrophos (prosoidia) "(the accent of) turning away," thus, a mark showing where a letter has been omitted,..."

 
At 2/16/2012 5:03 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"You hated your third grade teacher, and have caused her constant misery ever since."

no, i quite liked her.

frankly, i never stopped using capitals until the internet age.

though i do quite like the way milne and other capitalize word to make them seem like proper nouns (as in a legal document) like "winnie the poo had a Very Bad Idea that just would not go away."

 
At 2/16/2012 5:50 PM, Blogger Andrew_M_Garland said...

I'm waiting for hi's and her's to become popular.

 
At 2/16/2012 7:34 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"winnie the poo had a Very Bad Idea that just would not go away."

LOL, yes. Very Bad Idea could get a lot of use these days.

 
At 2/16/2012 11:20 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

My pet peeve is ridiculous, which I couldn't begin to count the number of times I've seen it spelled as "rediculous."

Breaking news folks: The root of the word "ridiculous" is "ridicule." As in: Worthy of ridicule. Not redicule. This has nothing to do with colors.

 
At 2/17/2012 10:56 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

my MASSIVE pet peeve is less vs fewer.

supermarkets with their "10 items or less" lanes got everyone to do this incorrectly.

if it can be counted, it's "fewer".

i have fewer cars than jay leno.

if it cannot be counted, it's less.

l like broccoli less than asparagus.

i very nearly cheered when i first saw a 10 items or fewer lane at whole foods.

 
At 2/17/2012 3:08 PM, Blogger spotteddog said...

@morgan
"l like broccoli less than asparagus."
Obviously, you don' have the same peeve about dangling modifiers/ambiguous statements;-)

 
At 2/18/2012 11:50 AM, Blogger Jason said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/18/2012 11:53 AM, Blogger Jason said...

Prof. Perry, I've been a violator of the rule in the past. somethings to consider: 1. Autocorrect algorithms in smart phones and tables are not sufficient to catch the grammar mistakes. I know I was popped once for this very issue. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I should proof read... 2. Add into the mix voice to character technology like Nuance or Siri, the words are typed out with no regard for the appropriate grammar. I've resorted to sounding out a complete phrase without contractions when I use this technology now.

Bottom line, perhaps technology is exposing weaknesses in our language we've been too lazy to correct?

 
At 2/18/2012 11:59 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

I think we need to "condition" Prof Perry but everyone breaking every grammar rule possible.

Massacre the language...

and when it stops..

the Prof will be thankful

and quieter...

;-)

 
At 2/18/2012 7:00 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jason: "Bottom line, perhaps technology is exposing weaknesses in our language we've been too lazy to correct?"

Perhaps it's the other way around. Our language may be exposing the inadequacy of our technology.

 

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