Thursday, July 19, 2012

Peeve No. 2 's

  Today I will hear Jim Parker talk about  ALABAMA AND THE WAR OF 1812: AFTER THE HORSESHOE at the Alabama Archives. I am so excited. While I wrote about the Red Sticks who left Alabama and fought in the Red Stick War, there has been very little information that I could find about those who stayed in Alabama. I look forward to learning from this learned scholar (degrees in History, Anthropology and American Studies) who is the Director of Fort Toulouse/ Fort Jackson State Historic Site in Wetumpka.

Since I began a rant on pet peeves in grammar, let me address my second most irritating grammatical error.

It's is a CONTRACTION for the two words it is.  It is NOT a possessive. Example: "Each day brings its own challenges."

In creating the plural (indicating more than one) of words, ONE DOES NOT PUT A CONTRACTION THERE. 
It's is a contraction for it is or it has.
Its is a possessive pronoun meaning, more or less, of it or belonging to it.
And there is absolutely, positively, no such word as its'.  This problem has it own page on the internet!  (

The contraction in other situations does indicate possession. I will quote here from

By adding an apostrophe and an s we can manage to transform most singular nouns into their possessive form:
  • the car's front seat
  • Charles's car
  • Bartkowski's book
  • a hard day's work
    Some writers will say that the -s after Charles' is not necessary and that adding only the apostrophe (Charles' car) will suffice to show possession. Consistency is the key here: if you choose not to add the -s after a noun that already ends in s, do so consistently throughout your text. William Strunk's Elements of Style recommends adding the 's. (In fact, oddly enough, it's Rule Number One in Strunk's "Elementary Rules of Usage.") You will find that some nouns, especially proper nouns, especially when there are other -s and -z sounds involved, turn into clumsy beasts when you add another s: "That's old Mrs. Chambers's estate." In that case, you're better off with "Mrs. Chambers' estate."
    There is another way around this problem of klunky possessives: using the "of phrase" to show possession. For instance, we would probably say the "constitution of Illinois," as opposed to "Illinois' (or Illinois's ??) constitution."
    To answer that question about Illinois, you should know that most words that end in an unpronounced "s" form their possessive by adding an apostrophe + s. So we would write about "Illinois's next governor" and "Arkansas's former governor" and "the Marine Corps's policy." However, many non-English words that end with a silent "s" or "x" will form their possessives with only an apostrophe. So we would write "Alexander Dumas' first novel" and "this bordeaux' bouquet." According to the New York Public Library's Guide to Style and Usage, there are "certain expressions that end in s or the s sound that traditionally require an apostrophe only: for appearance' sake, for conscience' sake, for goodness' sake" (268). Incidentally, the NYPL Guide also suggests that when a word ends in a double s, we're better off writing its possessive with only an apostrophe: the boss' memo, the witness' statement. Many writers insist, however, that we actually hear an "es" sound attached to the possessive forms of these words, so an apostrophe -s is appropriate: boss's memo, witness's statement. If the look of the three s's in a row doesn't bother you, use that construction.
    When we want the possessive of a pluralized family name, we pluralize first and then simply make the name possessive with the use of an apostrophe. Thus, we might travel in the Smiths' car when we visit the Joneses (members of the Jones family) at the Joneses' home. When the last name ends in a hard "z" sound, we usually don't add an "s" or the "-es" and simply add the apostrophe: "the Chambers' new baby."

    This helped me. Perhaps it will help you as well.

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