The Wordsmythe's Weblog…

…On Words, Love and Life

Misplaced apostrophe

I’ve written a few posts about my love for all things language and grammar here and here. Those who know me well, know I’m keen on correctly spoken and properly written grammar. I consider myself a logophile.

This doesn’t mean I always get it right. I don’t know how to pronounce or spell every single word in the English dictionary, besides at the rate new words are added to dictionary these days, it would be nigh on impossible. However I am constantly checking out and learning new words, learning the pronunciation for words which I may never have come across and even for more commonly used words just to make sure I get them right.

I appreciate that my passion is not shared by everyone and I can live with that but it grates on my last nerve when I see common words being misspelled or the apostrophe used wrongly. I am not asking everyone to suddenly become English language professors but it would be nice if we all took the time to understand how punctuation works and use it accordingly.

In this microwave age of instant gratification, everyone’s in a hurry and no one takes the time do anything in its entirety. Technological advancements sometimes rob us of the opportunity and willingness to do things properly.  Writing and spelling are some of the unfortunate victims of this phenomenon.

The introduction of SMS which allows us send short text messages from one mobile device to another inadvertently meant words had to be abbreviated to within an inch of their sometimes rather short lives. The word count limit imposed by the SMS format makes abbreviating almost unavoidable except you choose to be as pedantic as me sometimes and type out full words thereby having to send several text messages to get your point across.

I wouldn’t be writing this post had we all stopped at using these abbreviations for just text messages.

Unfortunately, this peculiarity has spilled over into every form of written (and sometimes spoken) media of communication currently known to man. Newspaper headlines, websites, emails, etc have all fallen foul of following this trend.

Which brings me back to the apostrophe. It has been so misused that most people can’t tell its proper use from wrong usage.  What is it and how and when should it be used? Now if you are one of those people who used to fall asleep during their English lesson, skip this bit. On second thoughts, if you used to fall asleep during your English lesson, you are probably more in need of this mini tutorial, so please read on.

An apostrophe is the superscript sign ( ‘ ) used to indicate the omission of a letter or letters from a word, the possessive case, or the plurals of numbers, letters, and abbreviations. (Free Online Dictionary)

The apostrophe is used:

  1. To indicate the possessive.
  2. To indicate missing letters.
  3. Sometimes to indicate the structure of unusual words.

Here are a few examples;

  1. The possessive – This is Sarah’s dog
  2. Missing letters – Can’t, don’t, We’d, I’ll
  3. Unusual structure of words – Do’s and don’ts, cross your i’s and dot your t’s, they come in 2’s

I do apologise if I have bored you with that explanation but it was necessary. These days a lot of us are unaware of the rules and usage of the apostrophe so we see more;

Your when it should be you’re – e.g “I hope your fine”

Its when it should be it’s – “Its a lovely day today” and “The dog is wagging it’s tail”

I could go on but I will restrain myself. I could even give examples of other gross crimes perpetrated against grammar but I’ll probably save them for another post.

Please consider the plight of the poor apostrophe; this little and seemingly insignificant punctuation mark with the propensity to change the meanings of words. Be kind to it and use it wisely and correctly.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tara for now.

PS I have tried to go through this post with a fine tooth comb searching for any typos or spelling errors but I often times suffer a bit from literary myopia – being too close to my own writing makes me glaze over certain mistakes. Seeing as this is a piece on grammar, it would just be Sod’s law that there will be a couple of errors that I’ve missed so if you find any, please be kind enough to point them out. Thanks.

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4 thoughts on “Misplaced apostrophe

  1. Am going to read thru to spot any error’s. Lol.

  2. Joxy,

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!

  3. You’re right. There’s a shop in my area which has been closing down for five years, since I moved to England!… Also, doesn’t wordpress have spell check? If not, to deal with typos etc you can write the post in Microsoft Word first, so you can see the errors, then copy and paste it into wordpress.

  4. Hi Chibundu,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    WordPress does have spell check but like MS Word it won’t necessarily pick up all the errors.

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