Why do so many people think the possessive word “its” requires an apostrophe? Today I saw it on the blog of a professional copywriter who should have known better. The word “it’s” is a contraction for “it is.” The possessive “its” does not have an apostrophe. Neither do the plural forms of most nouns, but that subject is worthy of a separate rant!

Have you noticed (as I have) that many people don’t seem to know the difference between “reign” and “rein”? I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen the words “reign in” in print and online–for example,  “She tried to reign in her spending because of the recession.”

In a literal sense, rein refers to controlling horses and reign refers to the authority exercised by royalty. A person can “rein in” spending, eating, emotional expression, and so on. In this context, rein is used in a figurative sense to liken practicing self-control to restraining a team of horses.

By contrast, a king or queen reigns over or reigns within a country. Reign, like rein, can be a verb or a noun. We talk about the reign of Henry VIII, for example. The word regency has the same root, rex, the Latin word for king. The word rein comes from retinere, “to restrain.”

The next time I see the word “reign” used the wrong way, I will try to rein in my disgust. It won’t be easy!