1. It’s vs. its. Generally, if you can substitute it is, then you can safely use it’s with an apostrophe. Otherwise, use the possessive its. Example: It’s nice to see that my plant has regained its strength. The possessive its – referencing something belonging to it – has no apostrophe.
2. No apostrophes in plurals. While we are on the subject of apostrophes, let me get one of my grammar pet peeves off my chest. Plural words don’t have apostrophes! Cats has an apostrophe only as a contraction (The cat’s running up and down the stairs again, as in, The cat is running up and down the stairs again) or a possessive (That cat’s fur is very shiny). Do not use an apostrophe in the plural form: My cats are very affectionate.
3. You’re not having trouble with this in your writing, are you? The great you’re vs. your conundrum is similar to its vs. its. You’re is a contraction for you are. If you can substitute you are, use you’re. When referring to a possessive – something belonging to you – your is appropriate.
Incorrect: Your not going to the party, are you?
Correct: You’re not going to the party, are you?
Incorrect: I like what you’ve done to you’re hair.
Correct: I like what you’ve done to your hair.
4. Commas, periods, and quotation marks, oh, my! Commas and periods always go before quotation marks.
Incorrect: “I think I’ll go to the store”, said John.
Correct: “I think I’ll go to the store,” said John.
Incorrect: The man said, “I’m glad to meet you”.
Correct: The man said, “I’m glad to meet you.”
5. CAPS gone wild! Some people like to Capitalize Words For No Apparent Reason. There are more capitalization rules than I plan to cover in a short article but keep a close eye on your use of capital letters. Proper nouns always begin with a capital letter, as do initials, such as those indicating certifications or academic degrees after names. Capitalize seasons only when used as part of a title or formal name. Talking about the summer, in general, is nice, but only something like Summer Under the Stars Concert Series deserves the capitalization. Capitalize a person’s title only when used before his or her name. Example: Our office enjoyed a visit from Assistant Vice President Carlton Smith, who mentioned that he is president of his local PTA.
When you write your next marketing piece, cover letter with a resume, email, publication, or e-zine, I hope these tips will help you make a positive impression on your readers.