Sunday, October 5, 2008
Out damned apostrophe
A regular reader wrote to scold me on my, apparently frequent, use of "it's" when I mean to use "its" and vice versa.
I swear, and this is not a Sarah Palin do-over, that I know the difference.
"It's" is a contraction of "it is" or "it has," while "its" is a possessive pronoun. I'm a pretty good grammarian, but I definitely need an editor - something writing a blog precludes (for example, an editor with polished grammar would make me replace that dash with the more proper comma.) I'm also a fast writer. I learned the skill long ago as a college procrastinator, and perfected it as a late-night stringer for The Hartford Times.
Spell-check helps me frequently (that word "possessive" in the previous paragraph was originally one "s" shy of a correct spelling.) Of course, spell check misses the "it's/its" usage because both are spelled correctly. My blog software does not offer grammar check, as Word does, but I find the Word grammar checker as intrusive as my mother's admonition that it's "my friends and I" instead of "me and my friends" (it's a clause which demands the subjective case, and not the objective). My response to my mother was "Oh, I didn't even know you were there."
This is all in the way of an apology to whom a misplaced apostrophe is an eyesore, maybe even a mindsore. In the next few weeks. I'll surely slow down when I hit an "its/it's" situation. But I doubt I'll be perfect. Over at the Middletown Eye, I hope, one day, to have a copy editor who can make the correction. And as the days wear on, as I write, I'll undoubtably fall into an "it's" when I mean an "its." It's, unfortunately, something I've done my entire writing life.
But, I extend the invitation to notify me of my grammatical derelictions (firstname.lastname@example.org). The good thing about this blog software is that corrections are simple.
Finally, I'd implore you not to throw the baby out with the with the bathwater. While I believe in the common rules of written language that makes it universally understandable, and I lament the loss of precision that blogging, emails and instant messaging has promoted, I'm also a believer in forgiving an annoying typo if the message is worthwhile.