Monday, November 12, 2007

It wouldn't be an Encyclopedia of ME if it didn't have at least one grammar-related post

For an explanation of this alphabet theme, see my first NaBloPoMo post.

I am a huge nerd. We all know this. No need for me to apologize for it, right? I mean, I campaigned for an award that Poppy almost removed from the list due to lack of interest. As I said back then, Coca Cola wanted to teach the world to sing; I want to teach the Internet the difference between its and it's. And would you look at that? Both of those words start with I! I think you know what that means...

The letter I is for its... and also, conveniently enough, for it's. Two words! Two different meanings! Let's review them, shall we?

It's means it is (or it has). It's what we call a contraction--a way of combining and shortening two words by omitting some letters and adding an apostrophe. That is the ONLY TIME "it" and "s" are joined together in this way. If you don't mean it is (or it has), then it's is not the word for you.

This smart lady is just as adamant as I am about every blogger just learning this already, and she posted a handy little tip that I'd like to repeat here:

"Imagine that the little apostrophe is the letter i. Therefore, when you write it's, you are writing it is."

Good tip! Let's all keep that in mind; shall we?

Now on to the no-apostrophe version.
Its is the possessive form of it. I know this is a little tricky. Apostrophes usually make things possessive. In the case of its, however, not so much. Forget the apostrophe; we'll know you're implying ownership even without it. Would you say your's? Her's? Their's? No, right? (Or, lord I hope not, anyway!) The possessive of it works just like those other pronouns. No apostrophe. Never ever. OK?

Are you ready for some examples? Let's go!

Right: Hooray! It's time for a grammar lesson! The blogosphere needs to get its pronouns straight.

WRONG: No one but you gives a damn about this, Stefanie. Its all stupid, nit-picky nonsense.


Right: Hold that mug by its handle, fool. Or, you know, drop it like it's hot.

WRONG: Good grammar is it's own reward. But most of us would rather have ice cream.


Right: The dog might lick you, but that's just its way of making friends.

WRONG: I know I am prettier than some of you; try not to let jealousy rear it's ugly head.

All right; I think I've made my point. End grammar rant. End nerdery... for now.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I don't know why this one is particularly hard for people to grasp, and it drives me nuts.

I nominate you for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Whiskeymarie said...

You must know that I am punctuationally stunted, but I really inadvertently screw up the It's/Its stuff occasionally.
The worst part is, I usually don't notice until I'm re-reading a post like, 4 days later.
I AM smart, I just don't always show it.

steve said...

While I'm a spelling Nazi, I must confess that I occasionally screwed up the it's/its up until about a year ago when I got corrected by someone in a post on my own blog. I was embarrassed enough to knock the rule into my head permanently.

Good on you for bringing proper grammar and punctuation to the masses.

Aaron said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I recommend a follow-up series on the difference between "your" and "you're" (misuse of which makes my ears bleed), and an advanced class on "their", "there" and "they're".

Homophone mangling: It's everyone's problem.

Anonymous said...

I like to think that I am pretty grammar savvy, but I feel as though I may occasionally mess this one up out of sheer laziness. I'm sorry if I've ever made your eyes bleed.

3carnations said...

Yay! Thank you. That needed to be said.

As passionate as I am about this, I was a little ashamed of myself when I got a Christmas card last year that said "Happy Holidays from the theirlastname's" and the first thing I thought was "There should not be an apostrophe!!!", not "Oh, how nice, a card from the theirlastnames."

Stefanie said...

Nabb--That's all I have to do to win a Nobel Prize? Wow! And those scientists make it look so hard... Whoo!

WM--Lots of smart people make this same mistake. That's why I'm here to help. :-) Sometimes we all slip and miss this one while proofing... we know better, but our fingers just start typing faster than our brain. But for anyone who really didn't ever learn this rule, I thought that "pretend the apostrophe is an i" tip was pretty helpful.

Steve--You're welcome. I try.

Aaron--Ha. It IS everyone's problem! And don't tempt me with that follow-up series. I will totally do it.

NPW--Refer to my comment back to Whiskey. I know we all maybe slip up sometimes due to lazy proofing... just make sure you KNOW which is really right! :-)

3Cs--Don't feel too bad. I am positive I have done that exact same thing.

Anonymous said...

HA! This was awesome. Nice work!

lizgwiz said...

Well, you know I will certainly never give you shit for pointing out grammar goofs. I look forward to your follow-up series.

Then maybe I need to do one on correct pronunciation. "Nu-cle-ar," not "nu-cu-lar." Etc. "Dew" on the grass is not pronounced the same as "do" whatever you want 'cause who cares about all this stuff anyway?! Ahem. I do.

3carnations said...

Liz (sorry for carrying on a conversation in the comments, Stefanie), I'm with you on nuclear, but what is the dew/do thing about? I pronounce those the same! lists them both as having "doo" as correct pronunciations.

-R- said...

3carnations, I was just about to write something very similar. Liz, what are you talking about???

Stefanie, I bet you could probably write a grammar tip for every letter of the alphabet. You should write a children's book!

Stefanie said...

R and 3Cs--I was wondering the same thing, so I'm glad I'm not alone. I guess I can hear a little bit of a difference in the pronounciations, but nothing too drastic. (Also, I am wondering how often "dew" comes up in conversation that it's nails-on-a-chalkboard to Liz!)

Maybe this is an Oklahoma vs. upper Midwest thing? Maybe in Oklahoma people say both "do" and "dew" differently than we do...

Paisley said...

Holy guacamole, Stefanie! I just posted and asked you a grammar question and LO! and BEHOLD! you wrote a grammar post. I think we have telepathic powers or something.

I hate the its/it's issue. It, honestly, makes me love people less when they get it wrong. Also, why is they're and their so hard? WHY for the love of GOD?!

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure I have that one down. I need to work on the advanced grammar involving punctuation, parenthesis, and quotation marks.

lizgwiz said...

Oh, it's definitely not an Oklahoma vs. midwest thing. It's a voice major trained on pronunciation within an inch of her life vs. a normal person thing. It's a "liquid" u sound vs. a simple "ooh" sound. And yes, I just noticed the dictionary lists both as acceptable, but to my voice teachers it definitely was not, and now I can't let it go. I also can't pronounce "whit" and "wit" the same. It's a bit of a curse.

Unknown said...

Liz needs to get her voice nerdery on with my other half. He's from Oklahoma AND had loads of voice and diction with his music degree.

As for pronunciation perversions, I nominate the Boston area and Alabama for Worst in Class. (It's okay -- I grew up near Boston and best friend's from way down south.)

Now. Stefanie. Please do make this part of a series. You are of my tribe, and must blog for the blogless-and-grammatically-psychotic. Many thanks.

I dig the daily posts!

--Shana in MO

Anonymous said...

Just happened to look over here today - this is simple grammar - I can't believe people need a lesson on this.

Stefanie said...

Paisley--Why indeed. Also, now I want guacamole.

Noelle--Well, if you need any pointers, I'm your girl. :-)

Liz--Thank you for proving again what I love about people: the surprising and very specific ways we all exhibit our nerdery.

Shana--I heard a theory once that there's a finite number of consonants in the English language. When one gets dropped somewhere, it's picked up in some other unlikely place. For example, when someone in Boston paahks his caaah, someone else down south warshes his. (That joke works better when you don't have to try to type out phonetic pronunciations.)

Ang--And yet, they do. Really.

Anonymous said...

I used to get this confused but I looked it up one day not too long ago and I get it now. I think there is just so much grammar to learn as a kid that I couldn't retain the info until now. :)