THE EDITING ESSENTIALS BLOG

Worry-free Writing: it’s and its

Its or it's? When to use the apostrophe
This is one of the most common word choice dilemmas that people admit to – many struggle with that apostrophe. Exactly when do you use it and when do you leave it out?
Here the apostrophe signals that a letter (or letters) has been left out: either i or ha.
it’s = it is or it has
I think it’s time for a cup of tea. It’s been a long day.
So you use it’s with an apostrophe as shorthand for it is or it has.

When do I leave the apostrophe out?

When its is used without an apostrophe, it means belonging to it.
The dog lost its collar.
The dog lost the collar belonging to it.
Of course, we would never say such a clumsy sentence, which is why we use its.
We get confused because when we talk about something belonging to someone (possession), we usually do use an apostrophe: 
I love going to Anna’s house.
This is what causes so many problems – unfortunately there’s no logic to it and we just have to accept that English is full of inconsistencies!

How do I remember the difference?

The key to remembering this particular rule is to always ask yourself:
Can I say it is or it has instead of its?
If the answer is yes, put that apostrophe in there.
If the answer is no, bin the apostrophe!
There is never any other time you would use an apostrophe with its.
And if you remember that the apostrophe is used in place of letters, you’ll know exactly where the apostrophe goes – between the t and the s.
The apostrophe doesn’t go after the – its’  is never used in English.
So there you go – the difference between it’s and its. I hope that was useful for you – if you’ve any other ways of remembering this rule, be sure to let me know!

Over to you

I hope you found that useful. If you did, let me know in the comments. If you have any other word dilemmas, punctuation problems or spelling blind spots, let me know and I’ll try to explain it clearly for you.
For my take on language and writing, and general musings on working for yourself, why not sign up to hear about updates to my blog?
As a thank you, you’ll get a copy of my free ebook, Creating Your Style Sheet, to help you be more consistent in your writing.

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