Its really a shame the apostrophe doesn’t get it’s fair share of love. See the glaring errors? John Richards would. He’s a retired British journalist and founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society, an organization devoted to just one cause: saving the much-abused little punctuation mark.
Richards told the Washington Post’s John Kelley that he sees errors everywhere and finds them “very annoying.”
I think that grammar is a valued part of our civilization. I don’t like any attempt to diminish it…The point is getting it right. If there’s two ways of doing something and one is wrong and one is right, why do the wrong thing?
The rules for apostrophes are simple, Richards says, so why not follow them? The Society’s Web site lists everything you need to know about how to use an apostrophe:
- To denote a missing letter. (It’s instead of it is.)
- To denote possession (The dog’s bone.)
- Never, but never, to denote a plural.
Alert contributors have sent the Society scads of photographic evidence of apostrophes being inserted where they don’t belong…
…and left out where they do…
Okay, maybe not. Even Richards admits that English is an evolving language, and some changes may be an improvement. But he believes a lot of change is due to “laziness and ignorance.” And when journalists misuse apostrophes in news stories or TV graphics, they’re not just setting a bad grammatical example. They’re unintentionally sending a message that they don’t care all that much about getting things right. Not good.
I’m on Richards’ side on this. It’s not that hard to get it right. Let’s stamp out apostrophe abuse so we can pay attention to other egregious errors. Subject-verb agreement, anyone?
Filed under: 05. Writing the Story