A friendly reminder on how to deal with this three-letter word
At the risk of sounding like Emily Litella—that cranky old Gilda Radner character who never quite knew what was going on—sometimes I feel the need to ask:
What’s all this about “its” and “it’s”?
It’s amazing how many well-educated grown-ups—people who presumably passed eighth-grade English and now hold actual jobs—simply fall apart when they’re faced with this three-letter word. When does it need an apostrophe, they wonder, and when does it not? And when it does, where does the little sucker go?
When it comes to apostrophizing “its,” there are all sorts of reasons it’s confusing, and its confusion has a lot to do with the rules we’ve learned. We were taught that when a noun is possessive, we use an apostrophe and an “s” to show it. Thus the room of Emily becomes “Emily’s room” and the drawings on the shoes of Kylee become “Kylee’s shoes’ designs.”
But for this little word, it’s the exception that creates its difficulty.