A Car's a Car, Right?
One of the most common errors writers make is the misuse of two very small words: it’s and its. Fortunately, it’s also the error that’s most easily remedied.
It’s is a contraction. That means it’s a shortened version of “it is”. In English, we remove the letter “i” and insert an apostrophe in its place, making it one word instead of two. Any time (and every time) the word “it’s” is used, you must be able to replace the contraction with “it is”. For example:
- It’s almost time to leave for work. (It is almost time to leave for work.)
- Has anyone noticed how hot it’s getting in here? (Has anyone noticed how hot it is getting in here?)
Its is possessive. That means when the word “its” is used, it is used in reference to something belonging to something else.
- The cat washed its tail. (The tail belongs to the cat.)
- The car overheated so quickly that it blew its radiator cap. (The radiator cap belongs to the car.)
- The moon hung low in the sky; its crescent shape, a mere sliver. (The shape belongs to the moon.)
Suppose your car is green, but every time your friend mentions your car, he says it’s blue. Perhaps a minor infraction on his part, but to you - and to everyone within earshot - it’s an annoyance, because by saying the car is blue, he’s incorrect.
Or, suppose your car needs unleaded gas to run properly, but your friend borrows it and puts regular gas into the tank. It's possible both cars may get you to your destination, but the ride there won’t be nearly as smooth if you don't use the correct fuel - and if that habit is continued, there will be considerable damage to your car.
For the writer who takes writing seriously, each time he reads the word "it’s", his mind will automatically replace the contraction with "it is". But suppose the word is incorrect and really should be "its"? To the writer with a keen eye, reading work in which the author continues to misuse words can be quite distracting.
Begin to make the necessary corrections by proofreading your work before posting or submitting for others to read. Are you able to replace every contraction with "it is"? Does each word "its" belong to something? Once you get into the practice of checking yourself, you’ll find it’s easy to notice which word should be used - and before long, using the correct word will become a habit.
And that’s the scoop with FWOOP. What’s your scoop? Got any?
Have you 'ed today?