It’s in the Constitution!

U.S. Constitution: Article I, Section 10, idiot “it's”As the author of that most notorious document, “The Use of the Apostrophe in the English Language”, I’m always on the lookout for how that most humble of punctuation marks humbles the high, mighty, and pompous.  One of these days I’m going to make a “meme” (yes, I know that this is a corruption of the original meaning of the word) which shows the apostrophe key on a keyboard with the legend “The apostrophe key: its there to show readers if your an idiot.”  Indeed, nothing so distinguishes slapdash scribbling from words worth reading than confusion between “its” and “it’s”.  That’s because the rule distinguishing them is so easy to remember: “If you mean ‘it is’, or ‘it has’, write ‘it’s’. Otherwise, write ‘its’.”  In particular, the use of “it’s” when the possessive “its” is intended, which I call an “idiot ‘it’s’ ”, is the signature of the sloppy writing of a muddled mind.

Imagine my surprise when reading the official transcription of the U.S. Constitution published by the U.S. National Archives to find, in Article I, Section 10, paragraph 2, the following text:... [Read More]


Knowledge Base: Apostrophe

"Its" and "It's"There are few things which make your post or comment appear unprofessional so much as misuse of the humble apostrophe. This is in large part because it’s so easy to get it right. Here are five rules for use of the apostrophe:

  1. If you mean “it is,” or “it has,” write “it’s.” Otherwise, write “its.”
  2. Contractions (can’t, I’ll, you’re) always use an apostrophe, replacing the omitted letters.
  3. Possessive nouns always use an apostrophe.
  4. Possessive pronouns (hers, yours, ours, etc.) never use an apostrophe.
  5. One never forms a plural by adding an apostrophe.

For a deeper exploration of this, including rare exceptions, see my 2008 document, “The Use of the Apostrophe in the English Language.”