Editorial Help Desk

Your Resource for Grammar and
MCPS Style

Word of the Month

Harbinger (noun)
A person or thing that announces or signals the approach of another.
The kids in our neighborhood see ice cream trucks as a harbinger of summer.

Tip of the Month

Should I use It's or Its? A Refresher on a Troubling Usage

The most common pronoun error is using it's for the possessive pronoun. Here is what you need to know to figure it out.

It's is a contraction of it is. It's is not considered good usage in formal business writing, because it is casual, and lacks authority. It is fine to use it's in informal communication including speech, but it is works better to portray authority in your correspondence.

Its is a possessive pronoun. Use it following the noun it refers to. The nasty tornado reared its ugly head.

Practice usage with this short exercise. It will help you remember what to do when you write your correspondence. Click the right answer.

  • Virtue is (Its/It's) own reward.
  • (It's/Its) better to use fresh ingredients in this recipe.
  • (It's/Its) claws are used to catch prey.
  • Choose a brightly colored scarf; (It's/Its) a nice contrast to the pale gray suit.
  • The college will not raise (It's/Its) tuition next year.

When in doubt, contact the Editorial Help Desk for help (Donna_M_Marks@mcpsmd.org)
or call 240-740-2971.

Get the new MCPS Acronyms  

Learn to decipher the alphabet soup! Look it up in MCPS Acronyms

Do you know the difference between an ELT and an EMT, between FLS and FLES? Keep this reference on hand and you'll never get lost in jargon.

MCPS Acronyms (PDF)


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Correspondence Manual 2016

Learn to prepare memoranda, letters, and other documents in a consistent format. See the updated examples of memoranda and letters. Refresh your knowledge of e-mail etiquette and more.

Montgomery County Public Schools Interactive Correspondence Manual


Editorial Stylebook

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Present your message in a clear, consistent, and professional manner. Learn some basic style rules to save time and improve your documents.

Montgomery County Public Schools Interactive Editorial Stylebook