Tag Archives: grammar pedantry

Its: the mistake everyone seems to make

Is ‘it’s’ the most ubiquitous error in contemporary communications?

It’s understandable. Unlike most punctuation, ‘its’ has never made sense to me. Why doesn’t it have an apostrophe? Surely it should.

The dog’s comfy new rocking chair

Its fancy new rocking chair

The ‘it’ is just a stand-in for ‘the dog’; so if it’s ‘the dog’s’ rocking chair why isn’t it ‘it’s’ rocking chair? Surely it should be. Nevertheless, it isn’t. But it’s amazing how many people – even word-professionals – don’t seem to realise it.

I saw it in The Guardian recently. Almost fell off my rocking chair.

For who the bell tolls

Excellent point well referenced in a review by Steven Poole in last weekend’s Guardian Review section, of the new book of that name by that organ’s ‘production editor and style guru’, David Marsh:

“…and the correct use of ‘whom’, avoidance of which has given this book its deliberately teeth-grating title. Cleverly, Marsh here inverts the usual reasons for understanding conventions. You need to know the rule for ‘whom’ not because you should use ‘whom’ whenever appropriate (because it will sometimes sound pompous), but because you need absolutely to avoid using ‘whom’ when it should actually be ‘who’, since that will sound both pompous and stupid.”

Spot on! Well done that man.