Friday, September 10, 2010

Please do not hesitate to use it’s correctly

This headline links two of my pet peeves in the misuse of the English language. First is the term “do not hesitate” which is commonly used in a formal letter. It is often followed by a request to get in touch, such as: please do not hesitate to call me or please do not hesitate to contact our office for further information. Why not just say, please contact our office or please call me? This gets right to the point without the gate-keeping phrase “do not hesitate.” To me, it’s a fence that I need to jump over. I do hesitate, thinking “Wait, let me think about this.” The reality is if I want to contact someone or am motivated to call, I do. I don’t hesitate. Let’s banish this phrase from formal letters – it's very off-putting! (joking here, otherwise I never use off-putting.)
Let’s move onto it’s. Most of you know that it’s is a contraction for it is. Some people don't know that - including some very educated people. Its, on the other hand, is the possessive form of it and can be used as a pronoun for an inanimate object.  Here is the correct usage: write “It’s raining” rather than “Its raining” or “You can’t tell a book by its cover” rather than “You can’t tell a book by it’s cover.” I plucked this from an association website: The Greater Detroit Chapter xxxx would like to announce to it's members a 100% grant-funded training opportunity in southeast Michigan. It should say its members, because it is being used as a possessive pronoun referring to the chapter. Get it? Got it? Good.
End of English lesson for today, until another pet peeve comes up – give me a day or two.