Judy Nollet
White Plume Communications

writer, instructional designer, eLearning developer

Grammar Wars:
Episode 1—The Phantom Apostrophe

A long time ago, in a grammar book far, far away, it was decreed that adding apostrophe-s ('s) to a noun made that noun possessive. For example, if you want to indicate that a certain weapon belongs to Luke, you can write "That is Luke's light saber."

However, a war began between the forces of possession and contraction. Many grammatical battles were lost due to the incorrect use of its vs. it's.

Its (with no apostrophe) is a possessive pronoun—like hers and his, which most people realize are not spelled her's and hi's.

On the other hand, it's is a contraction meaning it is or it has.

So if you want to avoid the dark side of apostrophe usage, remember these it rules:

  • To show its possessions, skip the apostrophe.
  • If it's a contraction, use an apostrophe.

By the way, these same rules apply to whose (possessive form of who) and who's (who is or who has).

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