Its true

Greil Marcus quoting John Humphrys in the Sunday Times quoting Lynn Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation:

Truss writes: ‘The confusion of the possessive “its” (no apostrophe) with the contractive “it’s” is an unequivocal sign of illiteracy and sets off a simple Pavlovian “kill” response in the average stickler.’ I think she probably understates the case when she argues that people who persist in writing ‘good food at it’s best’ deserve ‘to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave.’ Lightning strikes are altogether too random. There should be a government task force with the single duty of rooting out such barbarians and burning them at the stake.


  • Sigh. I hate hate hate that one, but at least there’s a logic to the error, given that apostrophe-s is used to signify a possessive in every case but ‘its’.

    So blame the bloody inconsistent English language as well.

  • Oh yeah? Try at least four more: yours (your’s?), his (hi’s?), hers (her’s?), theirs (their’s?) plus the obvious ones not ending in ‘s’ — the difference is that its is a possessive pronoun, just the same as its. Nothing inconsistent about this at all, except perhaps that we use the apostrophe at all (German manages without it but with similar endings).

  • Truss was on the Today programme making this point but was remarkably warm about “greengrocers’ quotes”.

4 Dec 2003 in Writing

Ideas Bazaar redesign
I’ve just done a redesign and build of the company’s website, which I found enormously satisfying.

On this day I was reading