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APOSTROPHE APOCALYPSE

19 November, 2015

It seems that a train-load of apostrophes derailed somewhere and the poor little things have run around like oxygen atoms desperately seeking a partner.  It is either that or people have somehow gotten the notion that there absolutely MUST be one before the ‘s’ in every word that ends with one.  In most cases, it appears to the reader like a possessive is intended rather than a pleural.  For instance, “my brothers” ends up being “my brother’s”.  There seems to be no explanation other than the sheep factor.  People see others doing it and do so themselves, thinking it to be correct usage — and it seems to be on the rise.  It’s probably worth noting, however, that it isn’t entirely new.  The outlaw motorcycle club members of the Pagans, prominently display the name as Pagan’s on their vests.

The apostrophe is meant to indicate (1) a possessive noun (“Ralph‘s car”), or (2) a contraction (“My dog doesn‘t have fleas”,  where the apostrophe indicates a missing ‘o’ and contracts the two-word phrase “does not” into the single word — “doesn’t”).  Another common misuse is the apostrophe being tagged onto the word “it” to indicate a possessive and ending up looking like a contraction.  Its is the possessive of it (“Its color was pale”, not it’s).  It’s is a contraction of “it is”, where the two-word phrase is contracted into a single word with the apostrophe standing in for the missing i.

Like most grammar errors, the misuse of apostrophes (sometimes unfairly) reflects on the intelligence of the perpetrator.  It is hard to take serious the statements of someone who insists on putting an apostrophe before every ‘s’.  A valid point may go down the tubes instead of getting the reader to think about the opinion.  If one doesn’t know the correct usage, one will either be perceived as not having even general knowledge or not caring enough to be precise about what one is saying.  Memes are often glaring examples.*

Coming soon to a post or meme near you:  Apostrophes before “ll” in every word that ends with those letters, wherein ill becomes I’ll.  I’ve already seen a couple of those.  Sheesh!

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* It is beyond me why anyone would want to advertise on the world wide web that they do not have even basic knowledge of spelling and/or grammar.

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