What’s an Apostrophe For?
I saw a headline yesterday that encouraged me to finally write something about one of my all-time favourite rants.
That is of course, the almost epidemic, terrible misuse of the apostrophe.
Then I found out that next Friday is International Apostrophe Day, so I instantly decided that this is going to be a two-part blog and I will not restrict it to apostrophes only – but also to the other most common mistakes I know of when it comes to everyday grammar.
Personally, I think that one of the main reasons why so many people don’t know when or where to use an apostrophe is because their teachers didn’t know either.
That sounds harsh I know but it isn’t a rant at teachers – I am married to one; but she told me herself how often her colleagues’ grammar simply isn’t up to scratch.
What, you may wonder, was the headline anyway?
The Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council recently had to pay out £1,200 to correct an apostrophe mistake when they advertised the following open air theatre production:
Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations…
I am tempted to leave it at that and you can decide where the mistake is, but that wouldn’t be very kind would it?
…nor very helpful.
So, here is my user-friendly guide to using apostrophes in the correct way – just in case you are one of the many out there who is not 100% sure all of the time; and I don’t mean to sound condescending when I say that. I consider myself pretty good at spelling and grammar but occasionally, I do get caught out so hopefully, this will be helpful to all of us.
I will start with the trickiest – names that end with an ‘s’. Hence the Dickens mistake.
The rule of thumb is is that where a name ends with an ‘s’, the apostrophe is added after the ‘s’ not before it.
So, James owns a car, therefore, it is James’ car.
But as with almost all the rules in the English language, there are annoying exceptions. In this case, both James’ car and James’s car are grammatically correct.
Here are some of the worst offenders I have ever seen in my time spotting apostrophes errors like a hawk…
I love Saturday’s – the only time an apostrophe should follow a day of the week is when the apostrophe is replacing a missing letter such as Saturday’s going to be an amazing day! The apostrophe replaces the ‘i’ of ‘is going to be…’
Discount on all sofa’s – there is simply no need to insert an apostrophe but for some reason, people think that if there is an ‘s’ on the end of a word it must have an apostrophe before it.
Not true. Ever.
Unless of course you need to scream something like, “The sofa’s on fire!” Now you know why the apostrophe is there – yes?
The same is true for all of the following typical signage errors like this one here…
I am tempted to tell you the very worst one I have ever seen on a high street but in honour of International Apostrophe Day next Friday, I will wait until then.
In the meantime, have a think about the following and we can pick it up next time…
Anythink or Anything?
Pacifically or Specifically?
Prophecy or Prophesy?
Ect or Etc?
Loose or lose?
Your or you’re?
There or their or they’re
To or too or two?
That should be enough to be getting on with!