Posted by: wordsmithsuk | October 30, 2012

Grammar matters

Correct grammar and punctuation are major hurdles for many business writers. These nuts and bolts of writing really do matter– both to make your meaning clear and to support the image you are trying to create of a competent person who knows what they want to say.

The apostrophe is probably the most misused item of punctuation in our language. You see examples of its misuse every day – look at the latest example that I found from a pub chain advertising a loyalty card. The person responsible for this gaffe must have learned an embarrassing and expensive lesson! We’ve all done it. The publishing world has many horrifying anecdotes about huge print runs which had to be pulped because of a crucial error that everyone failed to spot.  A cursory scan will always miss a lot of problems because the brian tends to miss small things like an apostrophe in the wrong place.

You can avoid this kind of disaster by training your eyes and your brain to check that you always have the right form of its (or it’s).

The rule is that the possessive form of it never takes an apostrophe. The confusion arises because the  possessive form does normally have an apostrophe as in John’s bookSophia’s laptop or the dog’s bone. But if I want to use the possessive pronoun instead of a noun then I write  his book, her laptop or its bone. The temptation is to write it’s bone because this is a possessive but that would obviously be wrong – and deeply embarrassing.

You only use it’s when you mean it is, as in it’s cold today or it’s time for coffee.

So when you write it’s or its, always double check that you have the right form. I always do. Don’t forget that if you write badly, it’s not only your own image that suffers in the eyes of the reader, it’s also that of your department or team and your whole organisation.

If you want more tips on grammar, punctuation or how to improve your business writing in a more general sense, get a copy of my lovely audio book Effective Business Writing for Success. It’s handy and fun way to brush up on your skills. Look at our website for more details.



  1. “It’s” can also mean “it has” — It’s been a long time seen I’ve seen that mistake.

  2. […] Grammar matters ( […]

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