This is one of those complaints that’s always hard to make because I have to stipulate that I’m in the wrong. So, for the record: I often screw up while typing “it’s” and “its.” I plead guilty. It’s one of those typos that one has to be particularly watchful of when typing for an audience as much as I do. I don’t mind, generally speaking, when readers correct my typos (though timeliness matters. Sending me a note long after I can do anything about it isn’t helpful). Sometimes it’s quite helpful.
But — and here comes the peeve — what I can’t stand is when people write me to explain to me the difference between it’s and its. Some readers can be very rude and haughty about it. Here’s an email that I think was tongue-in-cheek that I just got, but it put me in mind to finally say something:
You: “Lots of people were outraged that I didn’t spend lots of time defining
the word “liberal” as if it’s basic meaning (as opposed to its definition)
is some sort of deep and enduring mystery.”
Possessive “its” does not have an apostrophe, for future reference. If
English ever becomes the official language of America, I wouldn’t want you
getting kicked across the border for not knowing how to write it correctly.
Me: I fixed the typo he was referring to. But does anyone really think I don’t know the difference between it’s and its? Seriously, it’s as if some readers think they’re dashing off a lesson I’d never gotten before and that I’ll respond, “Ohhhh….that’s the difference! I didn’t know that!” The same thing plays itself out when I incorrectly use their instead of they’re or some such. There’s a difference between typos and ignorance. I may be guilty of both more often than I like, but rarely at the same time.