Commonly Misused Words: Its vs It’s

Have you ever noticed that there are some words that sound the same but are spelled differently?  They are called homophones and they get mixed up all the time!  Words like to, too and two and it’s and its are another pair of homophones that --when misused -- can be instant credibility killers.


Credibility killers? Aren’t you exaggerating just a little?

No. I’m really not.

Think about it. When everything we could possibly ever want to know (and probably a great deal that we don’t) is readily available and learnable with just a few keystrokes (or even voice command), clear and correct writing has never been more important.


Its vs It’s: A Simple Test

An apostrophe shows possession (the monitor’s screen is cracked) or is the contraction of two words into one shorter word (are not = aren’t).

It’s is the contraction of the words it and is. For example, It’s too late to do anything about it now.

Its is the possessive form of the word it. Example: The agency lost its biggest client.

So, whenever you see the word it’s, simply If the sentence still makes sense, it’s (or: it is) using the right form of the word.
substitute the word with “it is.”


Need a Better Proofreader?

Of course, the above errors aren’t difficult to catch. But it’s difficult being your own proofreader. And even the best among us make silly mistakes (even as silly as its vs it’s).

So what do you do if you really want to be sure you’re catching these errors?

Here are three options:

  • Put it down. If I’m working on a difficult email or an important document, I will almost always set the content aside for at least a few hours…sometimes even a day or two… and come back to it later. I will generally find a few typos I didn’t catch the first time.


  • Find a buddy. Every office has that one person who is amazing at catching other people’s grammar errors. Find that one person in your office, and ask them to review important documents for you, or to be a sounding board to make sure that you’re striking the right tone in an email.


  • Use technology. While not always foolproof (especially with unique industry jargon), Word’s grammar and spell checker or systems like will catch the most common grammatical issues.


Or, Choose to Learn…

It’s ok if you’ve gotten these words mixed up before but seize this moment to make a change.


Want to learn more about being a better writer or editor? Check out our books (Amazon) and courses.

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