Bloggers’ top two punctuation mistakes

“Financial blogging has it’s challenges”, said the copywriter. 

If you identified the errors in the sentence above, you probably aren’t making bloggers’ two most common punctuation mistakes. These mistakes aren’t confined to blogs. I see them in every kind of financial and personal communication. 

It’s vs. its

“It’s” is a whopping exception to the rule that you form the possessive by adding an apostrophe and the letter s.

“The performance of the mutual fund” becomes “the mutual fund’s performance,” but “the performance of it” becomes “its performance,” with no apostrophe.

“Apostrophes should not be used with possessive pronouns because possessive pronouns already show possession,” as explained by the Online Writing Center at Purdue University. So don’t add an apostrophe to “yours,” “ours,” “his,” “hers,” or “theirs.”

Remember: “it’s” always means “it is.”
Quotation marks and misplaced punctuation
Punctuation generally belongs inside the closing quotation mark. So my opening sentence should be punctuated like this: “Financial blogging has its challenges,” said the copywriter. 

The Associated Press Stylebook puts the rules like this:
1. “The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks.”
2. “The dash, the semicolon, the question mark and the exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.”
The Stylebook is talking about punctuation at the end, not the beginning, of a quotation.

However, if you’re writing for a British or Canadian audience rather than a U.S. audience, punctuation goes outside the quotation marks. Grammar Girl says, “Printers found that the periods and commas were more stable when they were placed inside closing quotation marks, so that’s the way they started doing it,” according to “Why are British English and American English different?” Grammar Girl seems to agree with my friend who thinks the British practice is more logical. Still, punctuation-conscious Americans wince when you flout the American way. 

The bottom line
Earlier this year I asked my newsletter readers “Do grammar or punctuation errors affect the writer’s credibility in your eyes?”

0%   No, I don’t notice errors
2%   No, I don’t care
22%  Yes, but I forgive small errors, especially in social networking posts
75%  Yes, it generally hurts my opinion

Only 2% of respondents answered “No.” That sends a strong message about the impact that errors have on your readers.

So, please

  • Distinguish between “it’s” and “its.”
  • Always put your commas and periods inside your closing quotation marks.


Do you have a question about these punctuation practices? Ask it in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

5 replies
  1. Richard Eddy
    Richard Eddy says:

    Hi Susan,

    I am NEVER guilty of the former, and always guilty of the latter! (On purpose.) In fact, when I wrote my eBook “The 9 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make Planning Your Retirement (And How to Avoid Them)” I wanted to give my business partner an author credit, but she had a challenge with my use of “hard stops” and quotation marks. Since I was the one actually writing the book we agreed to do it my way (the “right” way!) and include this “notes from the author” page:

    Because we wanted this guide to have a conversational tone, the guide is written in Richard Eddy’s voice. However, this guide was a collaborative effort by both Richard Eddy and Kelly Landry.

    A note from Rich:

    You might also notice that the “British style” of placing unquoted periods and commas outside the quotation marks is used throughout this guide. Neither Kelly nor I are British. Rather, this style is merely a preference. I find it a much more logical approach. It simply makes more sense to me, and, as I was the one tasked with putting our words onto paper…well…my preference won out here. Please forgive me if it offends you.

    A note from Kelly:

    Yes, it drives me just a little bit crazy. I like my punctuation the old-fashioned way! But aside from throwing a copy of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style at him, I will let him off the hook here.

  2. Martha Conlon
    Martha Conlon says:

    Wow! The difference between its and it’s is a big mistake. I’m usually more forgiving with punctuation. Good post. Also liked your latest post about two spaces after a period. I’ve found that even the Millennials put two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence. I tell people that leaving only one space makes you look much younger and is cheaper than Botox!

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