Grammar of the Day – Apostrophe
note: Dana Sallow kindly recommended another grammar website that they found both amusing and useful to them as a non-native English speaker. (See their comment below) The issue covered in this post from a Website Planet blog by Joshua Bromley is homophones. That is, words that sound alike but have different meanings.
Okay, so it’s really punctuation. I’m using it anyway.
The way the apostrophe is being used today has me nervous, afraid this sentence might turn out like this: The way the apostrophe i’s being used today ha’s me nervou’s, afraid thi’s sentence might turn out like thi’s. Sometimes it seems as if people just throw one in if the word ends in an ‘s.’
Granted that’s a bit extreme. But it’s not completely ridiculous. Just look at the epidemic of apostrophes happening now, especially on the Internet. Possibly the worst example is the use of an apostrophe to denote plurality. You see it everywhere, even in places where you’d least expect it. I frequent a forum called MobileRead. It’s populated by people who read. A lot. They love reading. They love talking about reading. They love writing about reading. And I often see sentences like, “How many book’s did you read last year?” there. I’m only slightly mollified by the fact that for many of the people there, English is not their first language. That only means that we’re starting them off on the wrong foot.
Here are a couple of links to the Quick and Dirty Tips website. One on the history of the apostrophe, and the other on when to use an apostrophe. Spoiler alert: the history of the apostrophe is not entirely rational. I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually became okay to use it for plurals. Plural’s? In fact, the posts above have examples of where we used to use them for some plurals, but don’t now. And where we still do use them for special plurals. It’s no wonder people get confused. And some get even.
Grammar is evolving. What is correct now was not always correct. What is correct in one place is not necessarily correct everywhere. But that is no excuse for not using what is correct here and now.
March 4th is National Grammar Day (America.)