Ah, public transit — not the first thing that comes to mind when you think “grammar,” but taking a quick gaze at your local transit memo can reveal some unsightly errors. Hark, for example, at this posting at the Winchester station in Campbell, CA:
In case you didn’t catch it, here’s the glaring error:
“To accomplish this, VTA is changing it’s fares and improving transit services.”
Apostrophes are topic we’ve discussed previously; take a look at this post. However, the issue with the word “it’s” is dual-phased. First, we have the more superficial issue of a misused apostrophe. Remember that apostrophes are used for two purposes: showing possession (e.g., Ines’s coat) and creating contractions (e.g., I can’t take the bus). For “it,” we show ownership in a different way: its. “It’s” is, in actuality, the contraction form of “it is.”
We wouldn’t read this sentence as, “VTA is changing it is fares…,” would we?
Now, here’s the second issue: homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same phonetically but are spelled differently and/or have different meanings. Without a proper understanding of the nuances in wording, words like “it’s” and “its” can be wrongly used interchangeably. We have two Homegrown Handouts that address this very issue — Commonly Misused Words Part 1 and Part 2.
Keep in mind the importance of spelling and meaning the next time those pesky homophones come to bit you!