If you’re sick and tired of blog posts about apostrophes, well too bad…here’s another one! Until we learn our lesson and stop making the same mistakes over and over again (we all make ’em), we’re doomed to endure constant lecturing. Even I make mistakes sometimes (I know…shocking!), so please tell me if you spot an error, ’cause — damn it, I have to learn!
I don’t know about you, but I am constantly amazed at the amount of apostrophe errors out there. Why is it we, as an English-speaking and -writing culture, can’t get it right? I see mistakes painted on the sides of vehicles, plastered on signs, emblazoned on book covers and sprinkled through articles. Some examples:
Do NOT get a tattoo here unless the owner’s name is Tattoo. Even then, bad idea!
This person sadly ignored the blatant signs that Tattoo, though a business owner, did not possess the necessary English skills to craft an eloquent indelible message. I say tattoo artists should stick to images.
This may have been a design choice…I get it, but I don’t have to like it!
Oooh, wait a minute…I think they’re telling us the Best Rib is actually in town. Well, I’d like to meat him (see what I did there?)
This is completely understandable — the sign printer obviously ran out of apostrophes.
Their price for perfection is having to fire the proofreader.
At least they reword the invitation underneath as they know something is wrong in the first sentence but aren’t sure what it is, so they kindly clarify things for the reader. And what’s with the time? Another pet peeve — there should be a colon between 9 and 30 and a space before am!!!! I also hate overuse of exclamation marks…but sometimes…I tell ya!
So, I have some questions for you. Should we point out these egregious errors to the perpetrator? Or, is it not our place to be the punctuation police? And who is to blame: the business owner, the copy writer, the proofreader, the printer, the sign installer, the first person to see the printed copy? I imagine the text passes through multiple stages and past several people before being presented to the public. Just carelessness then, I suppose.
The only way we will learn as a society is to keep reminding people the correct way to punctuate, and point out the errors so they aren’t made again. Ask someone else to proofread, or at least double-check your work. Appalling apostrophe application should not be tolerated. So let’s go over the rules again…
Only use apostrophes for:
- Contractions. When squishing two words together, the apostrophe is like a bookmark for the missing letters. For example: “I’d (I
would) love to attend the party, but I don’t (do n ot) like boring conversation or frozen sausage rolls passed off as hors d’oevres.” ( I had to look up how to spell hors d’oevres — French: outside of the main course).
- Possessives. To show who or what owns something. For example: “My parents do not make a habit of throwing boring parties. Mother’s quiche is often spoken of the next day and her guests’ palates are discerning, I assure you. I insist you attend Thursday’s party.”
- Abbreviations. For example: “Well, excuse me! I would hate to upset you ’cause your parents are terrible hosts! They haven’t thrown a good party since the ’70s!” (note there is NO apostrophe required after ’70 as it is a plural word — 1970s, nineteen seventies).
* TIP: When typing an apostrophe, make sure it is the apostrophe– the curly quote mark or straight quote mark ( ’ or ‘ ), and try and pay attention to the way the apostrophe faces. It is NOT an opening quote, but an END quote ’ not ‘.
Now there are odd rules, and exceptions, and even preferential treatment for apostrophes. E.g. an apostrophe can help clarify things as in: Mind you P’s and Q’s — it just looks better with apostrophes, though they are not needed.
It is interesting to note that the creator of Mother’s Day wanted the apostrophe inserted before the ‘r’ although there are three usage camps (Mother’s Day, Mothers’ Day and Mothers Day). So, my final piece of advice is to look it up if in doubt, or ask a superlative editor like me…or is it myself?
Leave your comments or questions below, and PLEASE point out any errors, because we all need reminding sometimes!