How to Be Properly Possessive

I know I’ll never be able to rival Grammar Girl’s fabulous blog, but I do like to occasionally post my own tips for those who are writing their own content.

One of the biggest problems I see when I copy edit is the confusion as to when “its” should be used and when “their” is more appropriate.

“Its” as a possessive is used for singular nouns, while “their” is used for plural nouns. What is the word company? Singular or plural? Singular – so the correct pronoun to use is “it,” meaning the correct possessive word to use will be “its.”

Now consider the word “directors.” Plural, right? Therefore, the correct possessive pronoun to use would be “their.”

The biggest problems are with what are called “collective nouns,” such as Board of Directors, Staff, or Audience. If the members of the collective noun are being treated as individuals, then you use “their,” as in “The staff received their paychecks.”

However, if the members of the collective noun are being referred to as a single unit, you should use “its,” as in “The Board of Directors issued its statement on first quarter losses.”

I hope this helps clarify the differences for you, in case you had some uncertainty.

If you’re in need of an expert set of eyes to review your marketing materials before you send them to the printing shop, just contact me!

Bernadette Geyer helps small businesses, entrepreneurs, and creatives expand their reach through clear, concise, and compelling copy in English, so that they can attract more customers with consistent and memorable marketing content. Download her new set of “Quick Sheets”  for tips on how to use your online resources to attract more customers, even if you only have 15 minutes a day to do your online marketing.

Geyer specializes in working with people who are breaking out of their fishbowl to move to a bigger pond – whether they are expanding their business into new markets, writing a book, creating their first website, or dipping their toes into the social media waters. You can see her list of services here.

ProperlyPossessive

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