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Skillz and Shortcomings

I can never remember where you are supposed to put the stamp on an envelope. Left corner? Right corner? I think I usually get it wrong.

I also can't remember the zip code of the house where I lived for 14 years.

I have a talent for cracking nuts and removing the nut intact and pristine from the shell. I have an exceptional gift when it comes to pecans.

I am very good at cards. Seriously, do not play cards with me unless you want to lose, and badly. Also, dominoes.

However, I suck at Yahtzee.

I can still do the splits. Ok, so only right splits and it hurts like a bitch, but still, not too bad for a 33 year old mother of two.

I am master of all I survey when it comes to there/their/they're and your/you're, but its/it's is the very bane of my existence. (Does anybody have a superfly way to remember that? And don't give me that old dog scratching fleas crap, because that does absolutely no good if you still can't remember which one gets the apostrophe, which I can't.) (Y'all, thanks, but I don't really need an explanation of the contraction vs. possessive deal, which I can (and often do) look up. What I need is a way to actually remember that for longer than two and a half minutes.)

Ok, enough, just ignore that last one, please, I am begging you. Because if one more person gives me the grammatical rule for that I am going to scream. My problem is not that I can't figure out what the rule is, the problem is that I can't remember it, so telling me that "it's" is "it is" does no good since I will not remember that tomorrow. And now enough, no more comments on that subject. Seriously, don't do it, I'm getting crabby here.

Comments (31)

"Its" only needs an apostrophe if you're shortening "it is." Regardless of the situation, the possessive "its" never warrants an apostrophe. And I totally rock it at Yahtzee but I can't seem to do any better pathetic at dominoes.

If you could also write "it is" in the same place, then it is it's. The its is for possessives. :-)

Dude! Incorrect use of "their", "there" and "they're" or "your" and "you're" drives me NUTS! I won't say I spell everything else correctly or use the correct words, but those mistakes bug me! For "its" and "it's", I always just thought it was you use "it's" if you could replace it with "it is". Like you use "its" for "The dog licked its butt", because you can't say "the dog licked it is butt". Oh hell, I just lost the rest of my comment. There's a word that always trips me up, and I can't remember it now! I will be driven crazy by that all day now. Grr.

It's is "it is." End of story.

Even those of us with big grammar sticks up our butts (meaning me, not you) have little rules that always trip us up. Mine is "bring and take." My mom still makes a face every time I use the wrong one, but I cannot keep them straight.

You're incredibly flexible.

Hi - this is my first ever comment but I totally had to say something. :)

I know you've already crossed out the whole grammar paragraph, so please don't kill me - but the easiest way I've found to remember which "its" get the apostrophe is to remember the words "her" and "hers." Just like the possessive of "her" doesn't get an apostrophe to turn into "hers," so the possessive of "it" doesn't get one to become "its." So if it's the *possessive*, no apostrophe, just like "hers." Ergo, the apostrophe goes with the contraction.

Does that make sense? That particular rule is one that I can always do instinctively, but my hubby is a teacher and was always putting the wrong "its" into his materials. After I told him my "rule of thumb," he seemed to be able to keep them straight.

Oh, and me? No splits at all. So I'm desperately impressed.

Yup, I use a trick similar to Aimee's. If you could substitute his/her, then use its. No apostrophes in his/her/hers, no apostrophe in its. Plus, you get to pretend you are all European by assigning genders to random objects. As in, "Don't touch that knife, her blade is very sharp." = "Don't touch that knife, its blade is very sharp."

(Please don't come after me with the very sharp-bladed knife for ignoring your plea for no more comments on the issue. You getting to pretend you are European makes it a superfly trick, no?)

Ohh I am good at Yahtzee. It is the one game I win all the time against my husband who wins every other board game we play known to mankind. Also, I totally suck at Scrabble - terrible in an embarrassing sort of way. What do you think? I never said a word about that crossed out paragraph. OH and I SO cannot do the splits any more but I could until I was about 30...

My second-ever comment is simply a "HA HA HA" for Stephanie's suggestion of the superfly European trick of "her blade is very sharp." I love it.

Stephanie, if Beth DOES come after you with the very sharp-bladed knife, I promise I'll throw myself in front of it, if only because I was the one who re-opened the grammar discussion anyway.

I am very good at remembering numbers (like, I still know the phone number of the house I moved out of when I was 10), and I don't like playing cards much. Also, I grade student papers for a living and have to circle the its/it's thing about 20 times a day. So if anyone ever asks what the opposite of you is, apparently it's me.

But here's the thing: while no one needs to know a 20+ year old phone number, and you can always LOOK UP a grammar rule, the mothering thing and the writing thing are so much more substantial and useful and important. And at those, you rock.

The your/you're and all that stuff just drives me batty sometimes when people can't get it straight, especially when they're really smart people like you! But then sometimes when I'm really tired I catch myself screwing them up too, so I can't *really* say anything.
Also, holy crap you're flexible! You weren't kidding with the freakish thing ;-)

Okay, I don't know if this falls into the category of "I already know the rule, just can't remember it," but I always remember that a possessive pronoun never takes an apostrophe. Its, hers, his, mine etc. are all possessive pronouns. I never used to be able to remember its and it's because duh! both contractions and possessives never take apostrophes, but for some reason, this one works for me.

Somehow I am very surprised about the stamp thing. I don't know why, but I had you pegged for the old fashioned letter writing type of gal who would even know how to properly format a business letter.

My problem with its vs. it's isn't that I don't know the rule, it's that my pinky, for whatever freaking reason, really likes hitting that damn apostrophe key. My brain is thinking its but my finger says something else entirely. It's frustrating. About as frustrating as it's taken me to type this comment so that all the words are right and I don't prove my point.

Anyway. I'm awesome at removing the peanut intact from a peanut M&M once it's inside my mouth. Do not ask me why I feel the need to do this. That way lies madness and mayhem. Let's just leave it at, it needs to be done and so it is.

I recommend a nice, big mug full of booze before you get writing. It makes all the grammatical errors disappear.

I have a terrible time with the it's its thing, too. And I'm good at cards but can't remember my Mom's bday. Maybe it's one of those things that's related to which side of our brains is dominant. I am not, however, freakishly flexible. This is related I'm sure to how often I loll about instead of attend my yoga class. I'm all for the European approach. I'm totally adopting that.

I'm an English teacher. Remember "its" as "tits." You possess them. Maybe that'll help you remember that "its" is possessive.

Does that help? It takes the whole "it's" means "it is" pressure off.

I'm sorry for not listening to your desperate plea, but I just wanted to add something here:

I think of "it's" as "it is" with the bottom part of the second "i" erased. The apostrophe is the dot above the second "i". More of a visual aid than a rule. I am not good at rules. (But I do know that alot is not a word. A LOT.)

Their = Individual (i) [their book, their chair]
There = Real estate (r... actually, it is location... real estate - location, location...) [over there]
They're = A group (a)... [they're going to the park]

As for apostrophes... If you are being lazy and can't be bothered to write the letter you are skipping, chuck an apostrophe in instead (eg they are = they're [missing the a])

It's = it is (laziness, using an apostrophe rather than writing the i)
Its = it is (possessive) - selfish, doesn't deserve an apostrophe...

You're = you are (laziness again)
Your = possessive (selfish)

It made sense in my mind!

Okay, apparently no one read your post.

I feel for you: My major trip-up is lie/lay/laid/lain etc.

"Farther" and "further" always trip me up. Every time.

I have a heck of a time with rights and lefts (I just never learned it); I'm about to receive my master's in science (physics based) and I don't know my multiplication tables (unless 1, 2, 5, and 10 count)...but I do very well in math at school. I also have trouble with where and were and can't spell to save my life. And the worst...I can never...never remember does the sun rise in the east and set in the west or is it the other way around? Oh yeah and I'm ashamed to say if it's not digital, it takes me at lest 30 seconds to tell you what time it is...sad..but true. Despite all these shortcomings I've managed to survive this far, so I guess there is hope for all :)

Ok, here's my stupid attempt at the memory tricks. (Incidentally mistakes like this drive me bonkers, but I don't judge you.)

Their They're There

Your You're
Its It's

Anything with an apostrophe:
Think of the apostrophe as a baseball bat connecting (or whacking) two things. For example: When they're (they are) driving you nuts and it's (it is) making you crazy- you're (you are) not arrogant but everyone should be as smart as you.

(simplified- anything with the apostrophe is 2 words not one)

Their and there- TheIr- I is identity. So it has to do with someone. If there is not a someone involved use "there".

Hope that helps. I just made all this up, I hope it makes sense.

You know what always gets me? Plural possessives. I will go to great lengths to avoid using a plural possessive in a sentence.

And I'm not always so great on "right" and "left". You should have seen me this morning at the doctor's office, trying to figure out which knee on the little diagram of a human looking out at me would be the left knee. I finally just drew the arrow to the knee on my left and wrote left knee next to it.

i am an editor, and for the life of me i can't remember when to use effect and affect. i have to look it up every single time.

that is also why i refuse to capitalize anything unless i'm being graded on it. sue me.

The splits, huh? The last time I was able to do that was about the last time I wore a bikini. Which was about age 2.

I knew all these distinctions right up until the moment I read all these comments, and now I am entirely baffled. Beth, please ignore everything everyone wrote here and don't hurt us. Please.
(Also, happy Friday!)

dudes, weren't you listening? what's with all the grammatical advice?

i am surprised to learn that you have trouble with that rule because the rest of your grammar is both pristine and also quite clever. but who cares? the disgraces i see on ads, signs, and out of people's mouths everyday are 10 kajillion times worse than a misuse of "its" here and there. i mean, considering.

also, yahtzee=LOVE.

Dude, I won't tell you which it is, but if you keep messing it up, I'll have to stop coming by, it's (it is) annoying (ha).

For me, it's "misspell". I try to omit an "s". It looks odd either way.

I know you said don't do it but I found reading something I'm not sure of aloud helps.

Oh, and good for Mia. I knew she'd get there eventually. The girls hated Barbie but they loved the Disney dolls and often wore their own homemade versions (from things I found at yard sales and thrift stores) of the costumes for Halloween. I bit my tongue and let them have fun.

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So the Fish Said...

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem, I whisper with my lips close to your ear.

- Walt Whitman

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I want to get a pet duck and keep it in the bathtub.
I am addicted to chap stick and altoids.
I am freakishly flexible.

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