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More Grammar Tips for Indie Authors: Common Pitfalls

June 19, 2014

Does who/whom confuse you as much as it does me? Then look no further.

Jennie Sherwin


As my contribution to the Rave Reviews Book Club’s mentoring program, I am posting short grammar lessons from time to time. In today’s post, I focus on its and it’s and who and whom, little words that can cause difficulties for the unwary writer.


Its and it’s.

Do you know the difference between “its” and “it’s”? Can you decide which to use when you are writing? Let’s check. Consider the sentence below:

When confronted with the rock in (itsor it’s?) path, the snail suddenly stopped.

Which was your choice? “Its” or “it’s”?If you chose “its,” you correctly chose the possessive pronoun “its.” Other examples include: The dog licked its paw. The cub found its mother.

If you chose “it’s,” you fell into the common pitfall of mistaking a contraction for a possessive pronoun. “It’s” is the contracted form of “it is” (pronoun plus verb of being). This contraction…

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  1. Huh. That’s pretty cool. I usually (I think) am pretty good at determining when to use “who” and “whom”… I do often use the wrong “its”, even though I know when to use which one. Heh, the biggest problem I have with grammar is probably when to use “lie” and when to use “lay”…

    • Who and whom is actually one of the bigger issues I have; I absolutely never use “whom” unless someone particularly points out that I should. And yeah, I agree that lie/lay can be a tricky one, and I’m sure I’ve gotten it wrong before now. Lay/laid is even more of a pain, in my opinion.

      • For a while, I never used “whom” either, but now, whenever I use the word “who”, I usually sit and think and try to figure out which one is proper. I don’t always get it right (I’ll be honest, I don’t remember any of the rules, I just go by whichever one “sounds” right), but I think I’m okayish at it.

        Oh yeah. Any of the forms of those two words are a pain. Lie, lay, laid, lain…gah. I can’t keep them straight.

  2. I’ve been considering whether to drop ‘whom’ from my vocabulary. American readers tend to think anyone who uses the word is pretentious, and may lose interest in the author.

    • I actually never use “whom”, myself, but that’s simply because I’ve never really understood when to use it; “who” always sounds right to me, for whatever reason.

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