ATTN: Copyeditors and Grammar Fiends

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While I do consider myself a Grammar Fiend, I am a little bit confused over the usage of "its" and "it's".

Obviously one uses "it's" where "it is" could be used, but when implying posession (eg. "The dog licked it's/its wounds.") which one are we supposed to use? I've been told that "it's" should be used in the above example, but if that is so, when should one use "its"? Could someone outline some example cases in which each instance is supposed to be used?

Other questions of grammar are welcome in this thread.

Andrew (enneff), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:07 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

its

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:09 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Posession = its. No apostrophe.

It Is contraction = ONLY acceptible use of it's.

(pls ignore my spelling errors, because I know I am right on the its/it's issue)

kate (kate), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:10 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

you were told wrong. The dog licked its wounds.

http://englishplus.com/grammar/00000227.htm

teeny (teeny), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:10 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

it's = it is ONLY

possessive of it has no apostrophe EVAH!!

viz: the dog licked its wounds

ditto plural of it ("he ended his avant-garde poem with a whole line of its"

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:11 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

its

otherwise it would read "the dog licked it is wounds" or "the dog licked it has wounds"

j0e (j0e), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:11 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

close brackets

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:11 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Its = ownership thing, think of it as like his or hers.

Tim (Tim), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:12 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

and his and hers never take an apostrophe, if that helps you remember.

teeny (teeny), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:13 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

grammarian cluster alert!!

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:13 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

What if your name is "it"?

Sam (chirombo), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:14 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

it licked his wounds

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:14 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

apostrophes are so last century

stevem (blueski), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:15 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

theyre the microhouse of punctuation

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:15 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

"and then smog licked ott's wounds"

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:17 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Here's my question. I'm proofing this German website which my company had translated into English so we can use it as a resource. When referring to a made-up person, like a subordinate, they alternate between him and her from sentence to sentence, so it will be like:
Giving feedback to a subordinate helps him learn.
Then
Positive rapport helps a subordinate build her self-esteem.
But in the US, we would use him/her, or his/her, like:
Giving feedback to a subordinate helps him/her learn.
But sometimes this can get really tortured. So my question is, when is it appropriate to use "them" or "their" for a single person, like:
Giving feedback to a subordinate helps them learn.
Are you just supposed to use this when it will make things clearer? Or is it grammatically incorrect but tolerated? I really hate "him/her" and would rather keep it the way the Germans wrote it, but it has to be in proper English business grammar.

NA. (Nick A.), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:19 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

grammatically incorrect but tolerated etiquette-wise, basically

how abt:
Giving feedback to a subordinate helps him learn (her learn). [and then alternate the order]

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:22 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Cor Mark that's even clunkier!

Grammatically incorrect but increasingly tolerated in my experience. In the version of business English our business uses here in England, no-one would even notice. Except the sort of pedants you'd like to irritate.

Tim (Tim), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:24 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

just use "him"

Dave Stelfox (Dave Stelfox), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:28 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

No it's not: you get a whole sentence followed by an alternative section you can easily ignore. (Because it's in brackets.)

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:28 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

(nutcase) Yes maybe you're right.

Tim (Tim), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:31 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

How about:

Giving feedback to subordinateS helps them learn.

Dilemma solved.

kate (kate), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:32 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

just use "him" but put a disclaimer at the bottom telling everyone how much women are valued in the workplace and that you're actually dead politcally correct, like, and you'll be fine...

Dave Stelfox (Dave Stelfox), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:34 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

if you're going to start a fight you might as well start it by putting "her" the whole time, and then put a disclaimer at the bottom saying men can eat a bag of dicks

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:37 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Use "him/the dog".

Sam (chirombo), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:37 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

just include a picture of a german woman with subtitle "him" and youre sorted

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:39 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

if you're going to start a fight you might as well start it by putting "her" the whole time,

either or'sgood with me


men can eat a bag of dicks

i live for the day i see this in any corporate communication

Dave Stelfox (Dave Stelfox), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:40 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

kate is OTM.

teeny (teeny), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:41 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

just use "her" but put a disclaimer at the bottom telling everyone how much men are valued in the workplace and that you're actually dead politcally correct, like, and you'll be fine...

no, them is acceptable these days, and has been for years

Alan (Alan), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:41 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

alternately substitute any instance of him, her, them or theirs with 'rammstein'

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:44 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

"giving feedback to a subordinate helps rammstein learn"

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:46 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

You could also alternate 'him' and 'her' in different examples - a favourite self-help book technique but never mind. I still don't like 'them' in written English.

Archel (Archel), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:46 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

But it's fine in spoken English?

RickyT (RickyT), Thursday, 17 July 2003 13:59 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

What does Nesbit do when describing something possessed by the Psammead.

Pete (Pete), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:09 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Everything's fine in spoken English, it's in flux and I don't pay attention anyway :)

Archel (Archel), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:09 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Alternating him and her was the Thing to Do when I was at Hahvahd.

Colin Meeder (Mert), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:18 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I use Shem to mean both.

Pete (Pete), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:19 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

good point ptee:

things belonging to Cousin It are Cousin It's

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:19 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

"Them".

Chris P (Chris P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:31 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I use the third person plural rather than any of the other alternatives. If you actually put things into plural as much as possible, that helps.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Thursday, 17 July 2003 19:47 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Alternating him and her was the Thing to Do when I was at Hahvahd.

That's what people kept telling me, but I was never that adventurous.

Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Thursday, 17 July 2003 20:21 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I was going to make Chris's point without solid evidence. Hurrah for 'them'.

N. (nickdastoor), Thursday, 17 July 2003 21:04 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

y'know what? that it's/its thing has been bothering me for years and now i know. didn't realise it was that simple. Its like an epiphany ;-)

dog latin (dog latin), Friday, 18 July 2003 01:16 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Using "them" or any other plural pronoun to refer to a singular antecedent is a horrible horrible thing and should be avoided.

It used to be gramatically acceptable to use a masculine pronoun (he, him, etc.) when referring to a person of unspecified gender (you know what I mean.. I can't think of any other way to put it), but now the "he or she"/"his or her" method is the proper form.

I'm not sure if it makes a difference whether you use a slash or the word "or." I suspect that the slash is unacceptable in formal writing.

Curt1s St3ph3ns, Friday, 18 July 2003 02:11 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

"giving feedback to a subordinate helps motherfuckers learn," italics or boldface on "learn" obv. possible/encouraged

J0hn Darn1elle (J0hn Darn1elle), Friday, 18 July 2003 02:33 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

"I know what you're thinking. Did s/he fire six shots or only five?"

amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 18 July 2003 03:31 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I suspect that the slash is unacceptable in formal writing.

Unless it's academic writing, and it allows you to make a terrible pun somehow.

jaymc (jaymc), Friday, 18 July 2003 04:31 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

but now the "he or she"/"his or her" method is the proper form.

Proper, maybe. But it should be pointed out that if you're having to cram this into your sentence, you;re writing a clumsy sentence, and you should probably drop back and punt.

Kenan Hebert (kenan), Friday, 18 July 2003 04:34 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Not that I don't write clumsy sentences all the time, mind you. It's just that I'm aware of it.

Kenan Hebert (kenan), Friday, 18 July 2003 04:35 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

seven months pass...
Quick - is "fact-checking" hyphenated? Or is it "factchecking"? Oh no, they both look weird!

@d@ml (nordicskilla), Monday, 8 March 2004 00:24 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

sorry: xps to got vs have

mark s, Friday, 16 February 2018 21:47 (eight months ago) Permalink

fair. it's a tic of an otherwise terrible writer of my acquaintance and i wanted to hate it as well

mookieproof, Friday, 16 February 2018 21:56 (eight months ago) Permalink

tracer hand's recasting cracking me up

mom tossed in kimchee (quincie), Friday, 16 February 2018 22:53 (eight months ago) Permalink

i am possibly going to take an editing test in the next couple of weeks for a special publications dept of a local newspaper

i have freelanced for years but haven’t written for Legit outlet like this before

can anyone recommend any websites or books to help me bone up on my editing/grammar etc. i’ve got functional skills but my knowledge feels v flabby

Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 00:57 (eight months ago) Permalink

disclaimer: I am not a newspaper employee or journalism major

I expect you won't be required to parse grammar in detail just to demonstrate a technical knowledge nearly so much as to show the ability to edit for clarity and brevity, correct writers' incorrect spelling or improper homophones (to, too, two, etc.), and show some familiarity with whichever style guide the newspaper favors. Ask them ahead of time what style guide they use so you can figure out how they want you to do stuff like capitalize, hyphenate, and a few other arcane details along those lines.

If I were hiring you, I'd mainly want to know you can recognize bad, awkward, or flagrantly ungrammatical writing and can clean it up to a minimum level of readability, and since this is for a newspaper, how to make the article fit the space allotted to it without ruining its sense.

If they think they want someone who can call a gerund a gerund with consummate ease, or can name-drop the subjunctive case in casual conversation, they are probably just confused or wrong-headed. Or horribly snobby about grammar.

Good luck. Oh, and "special publications" might be code for paid advertising inserts.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 02:11 (eight months ago) Permalink

it is - that’s kinda where my background is, hence why i’m going for that gig & not tryna be a stringer in the oughts or something :)

Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 03:13 (eight months ago) Permalink

I keep a copy of the AP's Guide to Punctuation on my my nightstand. It's not the stylebook, which obviously can change from place to place, but does illustrate things like why the Oakland A's have had multiple MVPs.

Not bad for a book with only 93 pages, but maybe you can find something from this decade though.

https://www.amazon.com/Associated-Press-Guide-Punctuation/dp/0738207853

pplains, Tuesday, 20 February 2018 03:51 (eight months ago) Permalink

The style guide for Chicago is pretty compressed and good. It's sort of like a shortened version of Garland's Oxford guide to American English usage.

Pataphysician, Tuesday, 20 February 2018 04:01 (eight months ago) Permalink

I hit the AP Stylebook online often. I don't agree with everything they come up with (though I do have to abide by their rules), but it is interesting to see at least why they write the rules they write.

pplains, Tuesday, 20 February 2018 04:40 (eight months ago) Permalink

thanks everyone, this is all v helpful <3

Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 05:53 (eight months ago) Permalink

Just read my posts

DUMPKINS! (darraghmac), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 11:55 (eight months ago) Permalink

then delete them

mark s, Tuesday, 20 February 2018 12:08 (eight months ago) Permalink

:o

DUMPKINS! (darraghmac), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 12:26 (eight months ago) Permalink

this is an amaaaazing book on editing. it's about academic rather than newspaper editing, but there's so much helpful stuff

https://sites.duke.edu/niou/files/2014/07/WilliamsJosephM1990StyleTowardClarityandGrace.pdf

Chuck_Tatum, Tuesday, 20 February 2018 12:45 (eight months ago) Permalink

When I was active as a copyeditor (USian term, sorry), the standard book to follow was Karen Judd's Copyediting: A Practical Guide. If I chance to leaf through it nowadays it seems dated, and very focused on practical aspects of paper-based work.

Speaking as an ex-newspaper employee and ex-journalism major, I agree with Aimless's post. It's more important to show you can make murky things clear (and correct the most howlingly egregious errors) than to master every nuance of using em dashes, en dashes, hyphens, etc. Most of those are issues of style rather than right/wrong.

I hire editors from time to time, and I like to look for a basically chill, audience-centric philosophy of editing. Vastly prefer that over dogmatic rigidity or encyclopedic memorized technical knowledge.

Consider one or more books by Bill Walsh, whose irreverent, pragmatic attitude is very much simpatico with my own. Look for The Elephants of Style if you can.

persona non gratin (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 14:38 (eight months ago) Permalink

speaking as someone currently employed as a proofreader and someone who has taken (and passed) a lot of editing tests, you are almost definitely overthinking it. virtually every copy editing test I've taken has focused on basic grammar, punctuation and usage errors, possibly some AP/Chicago style points (for a newspaper, you're probably going to deal with AP). editing for clarity/brevity generally doesn't show up, probably because those things are A) subjective and B) harder to deliberately insert into a story than a misspelling. as far as style, I've taken a surprising amount of editing tests where they just give you a style guide and dictionary during the test.

so if I were to brush up on anything before an editing test for a print publication, it'd actually be proofreading marks.

algorithm is a dancer (katherine), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 15:14 (eight months ago) Permalink

katherine speaks wisdom

persona non gratin (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 15:54 (eight months ago) Permalink

thank you!!!

it’s def prob just paranoia/overthinking. i just worry that i’m underqualified. i’ve been writing for a very small publication & i am not sure if my skills measure up, even tho i really want the job.

Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 17:50 (eight months ago) Permalink

four months pass...

Lopez' or Lopez's - both look, not great.

Fizzles, Thursday, 12 July 2018 12:15 (three months ago) Permalink

The latter is correct (per Chicago at least)

rob, Thursday, 12 July 2018 12:42 (three months ago) Permalink

de Lopez

nonsensei (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 12 July 2018 12:43 (three months ago) Permalink

kidding; definitely the second.

apostrophe s unless you're dealing with an archaic set phrase ("good friend for Jesus' sake forbear")

nonsensei (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 12 July 2018 12:45 (three months ago) Permalink

thanks all. makes sense.

Fizzles, Thursday, 12 July 2018 13:11 (three months ago) Permalink

i tend to go without additional s tho have some rules that i can’t remember right now where that doesn’t hold. failed at lopez tho without the s looked wrongerer.

Fizzles, Thursday, 12 July 2018 13:14 (three months ago) Permalink

in fact why i ever began to think it might be lópez’ is now alarming me. i haven’t been sleeping much recently.

Fizzles, Thursday, 12 July 2018 13:16 (three months ago) Permalink

I tend to follow Chicago on this, as in most things. But there is another school of thought that how you punctuate should reflect how you would say it. Which may vary depending on your dialect, your speech community, and the tone of what you're writing.

That is, if you would say "Jennifer Lopezzes career" then write Lopez's. If you would say "Jennifer Lopezz career" write Lopez'.

But that approach is too loosey-goosey for me.

nonsensei (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 12 July 2018 13:24 (three months ago) Permalink

If the 's' at the end of the word sounds like an 's', than use apostrophe-s.

If the 's' at the end of the word does not make an esss sound, just use the apostrophe.

"Illinois' roads are better-constructed than Arkansas' roads."

But Lopez is so close, but not exactly an 's', so I'd use an apostrophe. We have an editor here, let's say her last name is Fritz, and we use only the apostrophe for its possessive form.

pplains, Thursday, 12 July 2018 13:37 (three months ago) Permalink

Wait a minute, I think I confused myself there.

pplains, Thursday, 12 July 2018 13:38 (three months ago) Permalink

S at the end of the word - don't use an apostrophe.

pplains, Thursday, 12 July 2018 13:40 (three months ago) Permalink

huh?

nonsensei (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 12 July 2018 14:02 (three months ago) Permalink

the basic gist of the Chicago rule (at least in the 16th ed.; I don't have the 17th) for possessives is that you leave off the second s only when the word is plural, so "Illinois's roads" versus "many states' roads." No need to follow CMOS of course, but using pronunciation as a guide could get tricky as YMP said. For example, I'd be curious how pplains's rule would work in the part of Illinois where I grew up; there we pronounced Des Moines, "duh moyn," and Des Plaines, "dess plains."

rob, Thursday, 12 July 2018 14:51 (three months ago) Permalink

I favor making every singular noun possessive with apostrophe s, no matter what sound they end in, including s and z. I have never (until now) heard anyone advance the claim that a silent s should be treated differently.

The historical set phrase thing is an exception that I grudgingly accept if people think it's important.

Every regular plural noun gets s apostrophe. Irregular plurals (like people or children) generally get apostrophe s.

Usually this discussion bogs down around weirder cases like Joneses', where you have an existing s or z sound plus an additional s/z sounds that signal plural and possessive usages. Usageses. Usages's's. DAMMIT

nonsensei (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 12 July 2018 15:10 (three months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

my spouse bought me a magazine containing this sentence:

"Either/Or, her stylish North Williams breakfast bar-cum-drinking den."

do you think this was on purpose?

milkshake duck george bernard shaw (rushomancy), Sunday, 9 September 2018 14:42 (one month ago) Permalink

that is a correct usage afaik

kinder, Sunday, 9 September 2018 15:27 (one month ago) Permalink

but I would have used a different phrase in that context...

kinder, Sunday, 9 September 2018 15:28 (one month ago) Permalink

It would only be correct if there were a hyphen between drinking and den, imo.

Alba, Sunday, 9 September 2018 15:34 (one month ago) Permalink

Oh, and breakfast and bar too.

Alba, Sunday, 9 September 2018 15:34 (one month ago) Permalink

sorting out how to properly hyphenate that lengthy series of modifiers is reason enough not to try it tbh

rob, Sunday, 9 September 2018 15:37 (one month ago) Permalink

Or just drop the hyphens altogether. Xpost

Alba, Sunday, 9 September 2018 15:39 (one month ago) Permalink

In this case, cum is used as an unassimilated latin word rather than an English one (as in summa cum laude) and it means "with". I wonder whether the drinking den really is attached to the bar as a separate entity, or if author is just cheerfully misusing the word to mean "that might also be regarded as a".

that is a correct usage afaik

It is normal for a sentence to have a verb. Although, it is possible that where rushomancy called it a sentence and inserted a period it would have been more accurate to call it a phrase and inserted an ellipses.

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 9 September 2018 18:31 (one month ago) Permalink

ellipsis, ellipses is plural

mark s, Sunday, 9 September 2018 18:54 (one month ago) Permalink

you're right.

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 9 September 2018 19:08 (one month ago) Permalink

as for the phrase at issue, i would rewrite, because i don't think the unwritten linkage in the phrases "breakfast bar" and "drinking den" -- while it's certainly there, which is why they don't absolutely demand hyphenation -- us strong enough to override the written linkage of the hyphens round cum: the problem isn't that you can't decode it on reread, it's that you stumble (and chuckle if you have an evil mind) on first read

hyphenating everything puts all the linkages at the exact same level, which doesn't get rid of the hiccup
no hyphens is asking for dirty-mind trouble

"drinking den and/or breakfast bar" works i think (certainly it dodges the slight weirdness that Aimless is noting, that "cum" is arguably slightly misused here? and also the "he said cum teehee" thing)

mark s, Sunday, 9 September 2018 19:17 (one month ago) Permalink

us s/b is

mark s, Sunday, 9 September 2018 19:17 (one month ago) Permalink

stylish North Williams breakfast-and-drinking bar

mick signals, Sunday, 9 September 2018 19:35 (one month ago) Permalink

doesn't really even need the hyphens

mark s, Sunday, 9 September 2018 19:41 (one month ago) Permalink

^true. use hyphens to eliminate ambiguity, which you're not really in danger of here.

rob, Sunday, 9 September 2018 19:53 (one month ago) Permalink

i don't mean it as a technical grammar question. maybe i should have put it in "Words, usages, and phrases that annoy the shit out of you". the writer drops in a particularly unnecessary loanword in a context where one can't help but read it as the identical vernacular word.

milkshake duck george bernard shaw (rushomancy), Sunday, 9 September 2018 21:01 (one month ago) Permalink

one month passes...

Big style book changes at @nytimes: Since yesterday, we've dropped the courtesy titles – "Mr. Whatsisname", "Ms. So-and-So" – for stories about movies, pop music and TV 😱

— Matthew Anderson (@MattAndersonNYT) October 9, 2018

rip mr. loaf, mr. pop

mookieproof, Tuesday, 9 October 2018 19:43 (one week ago) Permalink

hullo gaga, bostic, elllington

doctor sir warrior would be concerned if (a) not dead (b) ever once mentioned in the times anyway

mark s, Tuesday, 9 October 2018 19:46 (one week ago) Permalink


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