The Fix-It Police #3: Grammar Changes are Coming!

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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:

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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?

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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!

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