Its. Admit it. Are you one of the millions of puzzled writers trying to remember whether it's the possessive pronoun or the contraction that needs an apostrophe in its spelling? (Notice how I managed to include both in that sentence!)
W.O.W. to the rescue!
Okay, I'll admit it. This is one that drives me absolutely batty. Just ask my business partner or my kids. Misspell anything you want, but just please don't put an apostrophe where it doesn't belong or leave one out where it does belong in it's/its. (Actually that's a lie, and my kids know that, too. It's extremely hard for me to leave ANY misspelling unchallenged, although I'm trying to loosen up. But I digress.)
First, why all the confusion? It seems natural to place an apostrophe in the contraction "it's" because that's what we do with all contractions. But the problem is in the OTHER "its," the kind that denotes possession. The problem is that with MOST possessives in the English language, NOUNS, we do use an apostrophe. This is my mother's book. The dog wants the cat's toy. Carrie is waiting for true love's kiss.
The exceptions, dear readers, are personal PROnouns. Hers, ours, theirs, yours...and its. No apostrophes. Please do not ask me to defend the indefensible. I'm not here as legal counsel for the nitwits who devised this system. I'm here to help keep you from looking like a nitwit for not following their screwball rules.
When you're discussing an "it" and you'd like to denote something that belongs to the "it," such as "The dog is chasing its tail," you do NOT use an apostrophe. Ever. Period.
When you're using "it's" as a contraction (that is, a shortening) of "it is," you DO. Always. Period.
So...how do you remember this quickly and avoid having to stop and think possessive pronouns and contractions? Simple. Think of the apostrophe as a tiny "i" in the word. Then read it. The "i" makes you read "It is." If it doesn't make sense that way, don't use the apostrophe.
"The dog is chasing it is tail." Uh-uh. Doesn't work.
"I'm going to look outside to see if it is raining." Yep, sounds fine. Just takes longer. Use the apostrophe.
If you can't substitute "It is" for the "its," then you must leave the apostrophe out. Out in the cold, freezing to death if necessary. Don't under any circumstances let it back in your word.
Now, let me tell you one other thing, which a purist would rather die than admit. If (and there's little excuse for this since I've just explained it all so brilliantly), IF you are in a hurry and can't remember whether to put it in or not, don't. Why? Because the grammar stickler reading your writing and judging your personal worth by your level of adherence to The Nitwit Rules is more likely to see the omission of an apostrophe as a typo and give you the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, putting an apostrophe where it doesn't belong is like a lethal assault on the eye of a closet proofreader, and is proof positive that the writer is either purposely flouting societal mores or is hopelessly ignorant of them.
Yes, I'm giving you the Slacker's Rule. I do not, however, admit to having biological children who take the lazy way out. Nope.
(If you ever say I told you this, I will of course claim that a hacker obtained the password to my blogger account and inserted these insidious paragraphs in my post in order to water down the appearance of my commitment to The Nitwit Rules. It will be your word against mine. I'm just warning you.)
There are other issues with apostrophes, but we'll deal with those another time.
And now, it's time for me to put my pillow through its paces....