Tuesday, June 28

A Crisis of Apostrophes



I’m on a little bit of an Editor Nan rant today because misused apostrophes have overwhelmed me this week. I know that given all that’s happened in the last seven days, a few misplaced apostrophes are very minor. So much going on in the world with Brexit, US politics, gun control issues, etc., and here’s Nan worrying about where an apostrophe belongs. Well, there’s a point to this concern, which I’ll get to in a moment after we review—one more time—when it is appropriate to use an apostrophe.

Here we go: 

1.      Use an apostrophe and an “s” to form the possessive of a singular noun. Nan’s rant, the dog’s bone, the boat’s sail. Plural nouns often don’t take an extra “s.” the puppies’ paws, but often words ending in “s” do take the extra “s.” Mr. Jones’s golf clubs.

2.      Use an apostrophe to form a contraction—cannot = can’t, will not = won’t, and here’s the big confusing one: it is = it’s, but the possessive of it is its. Yeah, English, gotta love it.

3.      Use an apostrophe to show missing letters or numbers. The ’90s, ’bot for robot, for example. When you use an apostrophe that way, make sure the apostrophe is always pointing to the missing letter. That means when you use it in Word, you’ll be typing two apostrophes and then going back and deleting the first one because it’s pointing the wrong direction. 

4.      When you’re forming the plural of capital letters used as words, abbreviations, or numerals, only add an “s,” not an apostrophe. So the 1890s, dos and don’ts, IRAs. But for clarity, use an apostrophe for lowercase single letters, x’s and o’s, for example.

5.      There’s an old form of possession called “genitive case,” where apostrophes are also appropriate to imply of. Examples would be an hour’s time or two days' leave.
 
Okay, so those are the basics and now to why it’s important. Using our own language properly is important because when we use incorrect spelling and punctuation on signs, posters, ads, or announcements that we put out for the public to see, we look stupid. It looks as if we don't know how to use our own language and that we don't we care enough to know. Right now, I worry that the United States is starting to appear really dumb to the rest of the world and I know we aren’t.

My point is this, if you aren’t sure about how spell a word or how to punctuate that Garage Sale sign or the ad you put in your local paper or the poster you’re hanging in your shop window, look it up. Google apostrophes or semicolons or whatever you’re considering putting out there in bold black marker. Use a dictionary if you’re not sure how to spell a word—they’re readily available on your bookshelf or online, so use your smart phone to help make you even smarter. 

Am I the only one who’s bugged by this? Discuss . . .

10 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for your support! ;-)

      Delete
  2. *nods* Recently a sign at the turn to our neighborhood read "Garage Sale's Cheap'. I don't even know where to begin with that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apparently they had their garage sales for an inexpensive price? The whole sale do you think? Hmmmm...I know I'm a editor and trained to think about stuff like this, but a sign like that just makes me shake my head in wonder...

      Delete
  3. I'm a huge grammar snob. Having said that, I learned (and relearned) some things from your rant! I see this language ignorance in action weekly from a person who is often the first-line of communication for my company, and it drives me batty that this is how we are represented. It's like walking in the front door to be greeted by a slovenly, unbathed receptionist.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great analogy, Ava! That's exactly what it's like. ;-)

      Delete
    2. I remember having a boss who I thought--because he was an educated and very well-paid man--would be an excellent communicator both verbally and on "paper." Oh, ye gods, how wrong could I be? I used to be very resentful of having to clean up after him.

      Delete
  4. I am a grammar snob also. Right now I am teaching an online college class. It is making me crazy when my students do their discussion board posts on their smart phones. I have to keep telling them, "Text language is not college level writing."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can we have a sampler made to that effect? Something in bright colors, "Text language is not college-level writing!" I love it! Thanks, Carolyn!

      Delete
  5. LOL. I think I need to print this out. I always get the "it" rule confused. My boss's boss is a terrible speller and I just cringe at the emails he sends out. How is that man in charge of a territory? Apparently, spelling and punctuation aren't important when it comes to upper management.

    ReplyDelete