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Apostrophes are so overused, I sometimes wish keyboards came without them. You’ll see apostrophes being used to indicate plurals all the time:

  • Bananas 49 cents
  • I rented a couple of videos

Such mistakes are so common, it’s actually surprising when you see the correct versions:

  • Bananas 49 cents
  • I rented a couple of videos

It was almost certainly this apostrophe catastrophe that cost McCain the White House:

What really puzzles me, however, is the confusion over it’s and its.

The rule couldn’t be simpler: The apostrophe is only appropriate when it’s is used as a contraction of it is or it has. And that’s the entire rule, folks. There are no exceptions.

It’s such a simple and logical rule, it’s hard to understand why so many people — even really smart people — get it wrong. I’ve seen this mistake in glossy brochures produced by the likes of BMW; it’s even been carved into granite. I just don’t get it.

Test Question: What’s the correct way to answer the question, “Where’s my pizza?”

Test Answer: “It’s on its way.” (If you wrote, “It’s on its way”, box yourself in the ears right away. HARD!)

My apologies for this self-indulgent post. Unless you’re selling copywriting or editing services, learning this rule is not likely to increase your website’s sales or leads. But if just one reader sees the light and never again writes, “The dog is wagging it’s tail”, I’ll consider this post a success.

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