Okay, grammar pet peeve time: Apostrophe abuse. It needs to stop. Now.
There are only two instances in the English language in which apostrophes are used:
1) Contractions, as in: you are = you’re, or have not = haven’t, or I am = I’m. Just keep in mind that the apostrophe takes the place of the missing letter(s); if you take a letter out to combine (contract) two words together, place the apostrophe where the missing letter would have been written.
2) Possessives, as in: Steve’s hat (the hat belongs to Steve), or today’s specials (specials on for today)
Never, I repeat NEVER should an apostrophe be used to indicate a plural!! Never, EVER. If you see it used as a plural, it’s wrong – even if it’s on a tombstone (see the image below).
In the illustration on the right, “Alway’s there for us,” it obviously means “Alway is there for us.” But who is Alway? I thought Mary was trying to rest in peace here… It’s just wrong on so many levels, because it’s not even a plural (which they were aiming for), but an adverb.
Let’s (as in “let us”) look at another very common mistake: 1) it vs. 2) it’s vs. 3) its:
1) “It” is fairly straightforward; it is the third person singular pronoun (used in place of a noun) for objects or gender-neutral references; e.g. The chair is red = It is red.
2) “It’s” is the contracted form of “it is”, as in It’s raining or “it has”, as in It’s been a long time since we saw each other last.
3) “Its” is the possessive form of the third person singular pronoun: “the dog’s paws” = “its paws” REMEMBER: You would never spell “his shirt” as “hi’s shirt”, or “her skirt” as “he’r skirt”; in the same way you should never use the contracted form as the possessive form of it.
It’s not “CD’s” or “DVD’s” as the plural form; this is actually the possessive (which therefore requires an object for that subject’s possessive form, as in the CD’s case), and I find myself asking, “CD’s what?”
If you want more examples, from tombstones to shop signs to tattoos that are embarrassingly wrong, take a look at www.apostropheabuse.com. Okay, pet peeve appeased. Glad to get that off my chest.
5 responses to “Stop Apostrophe Abuse”
Good stuff, Stephanie. It is frustrating how many people throw the poor little apostrophe in at random. I was so annoyed I wrote a small ebook about that and other annoyances! It’s called ‘What did you Say?’ and is available on Amazon for 99 cents.
Thanks! Commas & apostrophes are poor wee things, aren’t they? Their abuse is probably the thing that most annoys people who care! 😉
It never ceases to amaze me that some English people tell jokes about the Irish and their reputed stupidity, yet the handful of simple rules surrounding the English possessive and plural seem to be beyond a lot of English speakers. I wonder how they’d get on with a language with very complex rules like Irish or German or Czech?
I understand what you mean. I am fluent in Swiss German, which is another kettle of fish entirely than High German. I have to constantly remind myself of the differences in the comma rules between the two languages, never mind grasping the gender rules of der, die and das…!
Reblogged this on Stephanie Huesler and commented:
Back in the summer of 2013, I wrote this article on apostrophe abuse; after having surfed around a few blogs recently, I felt my pet peeve starting to twitch and decided to share it with you again, as many of you have joined me more recently. Enjoy!