Word Choice – Its and It’s

A BizWritingTip reader wrote: “A topic that is confusing to me is the correct use of the apostrophe in the word it’s. I have seen it written as it’s, its’ and its. What is correct?”

BizWritingTip Response: This is an easy question to answer. First of all — never use its’. It’s wrong, and it has always been wrong.

Now, let’s look at its. The problem with English is that for almost every grammar rule, there is an exception. We have had it drilled into our brains that to show possession you must use an apostrophe. The exception is the possessive pronouns: his, hers, ours, yours, theirs, and its. These words are already possessive. They never require an apostrophe.

Example

The firm must protect its assets.

“It’s” means a missing letter: it is or it has.?When I proofread, I check the word by inserting it is. If I can say it is, then I know to use the apostrophe.

Examples

It is certainly hot this evening.

It’s certainly hot this evening.

If you can’t insert it is, then you can’t use an apostrophe. Now, try the quiz.

A quiz

1. It’s/its time to stop emailing. Phone them.

2. It’s/its a difficult decision.

3. The report fulfilled it’s/its purpose.

4. The company will give all of it’s/its employees a bonus.

5. It’s/its easy to understand now.

Answers: 1) It’s, 2) it’s, 3) its, 4) its, 5) it’s

It’s our intention to stop people from misusing its.

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