Apostrophe fouls

(Taken by Gunnar Freyr Steinsson, January 21st 2006.)Just because you see an s doesn’t mean you should stick an apostrophe in front of it.

I don’t know what’s going on, but in the past few years, I’ve noticed more and more people using apostrophes when they want to make a word plural. How this fairly simple punctuation convention has gotten so screwed up is beyond me, but I am bound and determined to make things right again. Beside the fact that I’m just a nut for this kind of stuff, I really, truly believe that making mistakes in the written word undermines a person’s credibility, at least a little bit. It indicates that the writer either doesn’t know or doesn’t care–neither of which is positive.

Here are real examples of apostrophe fouls I’ve seen in communication over the last couple of days:

  • …neither of my sister’s made it…
  • …we will have three day’s together…

This kind of thing drives me crazy; I think it’s time to review the rules. Use an apostrophe to…

  1. show possession, that is, when someone owns something; or
  2. indicate missing letters in a contraction (e.g. don’t = do not).

There are all sorts of ways to indicate a plural–more than one of something–but using an apostrophe generally isn’t one of them. I don’t care if everyone is doing it; if it’s not right, it’s wrong. Words matter.

P.S. If you’re interested, check out these and other punctuation gaffes at the National Punctuation Day photo gallery. Also, here’s an article (one of many) about two guys who went on a crusade with their Sharpies to eradicate errors in signs around the country. I love that this article calls them grammar vigilantes. At least I know there’s someone out there who is as nutty as I am.

7 thoughts on “Apostrophe fouls

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  1. They turned the Sharpie adventures into a book “The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time”. An entertaining read.

  2. I have had a hard time trying to convince people (when I tell them) that they’ve misused an apostrophe. I’m very vocal (as you VERY WELL KNOW) about mistakes like that. And then it’s assumed that I’m arrogant with the knowledge, when all I am attempting is to correct an obvious error. It happened frequently at my last job which was at a now defunct retail stereo store. They made mistakes in advertising, on the GIANT electric sign on Coliseum Boulevard, on the side of MY INSTALL VAN. And I wondered why people thought I was just a high school dropout doing installs…

  3. They seem to have reported the story. They claim the vigilantes added an apostrophe to “women’s” but it is possessive not plural in the sign.

  4. I’m not sure I understand your point, Mohz. The correction they made is appropriate. “Womens” as it stood was inappropriate, as the plural of woman is women. The context of the sentence indicates it should have been plural possessive. The sign-makers added an ‘s’ but not an apostrophe before it–which was subsequently corrected by the grammar vigilantes.

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