Right before heading out to Arkansas, I received a wonderful email from Sister Karen from Ashland/ New Liberty PBC about my post on mispronunciations. She added a few other doozies to the list of commonly mispronounced words. And, at the end of her note, she identified another pet peeve: the misuse of apostrophes. I was floored - not only because it is also a big pet peeve of mine but also because it was the original subject that I had in mind for what became the "What Did You Just Say?" post. (The pronunciations just won out because of a lack of time.)
I had begun making the point that most of us accept what our parents and teachers say to us (in pronunciation) and follow the rules (of grammar and punctuation) that our parents and teachers teach to us. And, those rules seem to stick - no matter how wrong the teacher is, no matter how many years pass, and no matter how many new sets of rules are published in the world. For instance, to this day, I still put a comma after the last item in a list right before a conjunction.
...lions, tigers, and bears... vs.
...lions, tigers and bears...
I know that new rules for writing (and, specifically, lists) have been created, but this first version is what was taught to me day after day in school and driven into my brain by many writing, grammar, and English teachers. It's a hard habit to break.
What I cannot understand, however, is the world's tendency to misuse, misplace, overuse, or omit apostrophes. Come on! They're our friends. Let's get to know them! The following is what I learned about apostrophes in grade school.
Apostrophes are used for two purposes: to show possession and to create a contraction.
"hat of a boy" = boy's hat
"shoe the girl owns" = girl's shoe
Just add an 's after the singular noun who possesses the object. The same goes for proper names. Ex: Lydia's baseball, John's truck, etc.
"room where the children sleep" = children's room
"organization for men" = men's organization
Again, just add an 's after the plural noun who possesses the object.
Plural or singular possession ending with S.
I learned there are exceptions when you speak of someone whose name ends in an s and that one should add only an apostrophe when showing possession. Ex: Chris' bible or the Reynolds' house. Today, however, it is now also accepted to add an 's: Chris's bible or the Reynolds's house. (I just prefer the former versions because that is how I was taught.)
Joint or separate possession.
Use "Jeff and Tracy's van is in the driveway." (joint ownership)
Use "Jeff's and Tracy's clothing is in the dryer." (separate ownership)
The apostrophe is also used to represent numbers that are omitted or letters that are left out when two words are joined together in a contraction.
'76 = 1976
'06 = 2006
can't = cannot
I'm = I am
let's = let us
she's = she is or she has
won't = will not
Note: One word can sometimes be a contraction and sometimes indicate possession.
Strem's blog is green. (The blog that belongs to Strem is green.)
Strem's adding a post to her blog. (Strem is adding a post...)
There are many who confuse the following words:
it's = it is and its = possession
who's = who is and whose = possession
they're = they are and their = possession
you're = you are and your = possession
I was surprised to find out that my teachers had taught me everything correctly (regarding apostrophes) according to several on-line grammar sources. However, I had never been taught what to do with plural signs, symbols, letters, or references to particular words. According to www.dailygrammar.com, the following sentences are written correctly.
Your f's look like b's when you write.
Your speech had too many uh's in it.
Your 3's and 5's need to be clearer.
Always spell out your and's and don't use &'s in your writing.
There are too many etc's in this paper.
I was never taught this last set of rules, so I'm a little puzzled. Were you? Usually, I would have written the first sentence like this: Your fs look like bs when you write.
This is on my mind especially often right now because I cannot begin to estimate how many signs I've seen this week about "Pumpkin's for Sale" or "Large Pumpkins! Their Right Here!" or "Mum's, 4 for $10." It's even more perplexing when large businesses pay big money to have permanent signs made with these types of errors.
Disclaimer: This post is probably loaded with grammatical errors, so I probably shouldn't be the one to create a post on punctuation or grammar. Please forgive me for any errors that I've made. At the same time, please feel free to note any funny signs or apostrophe uses that you've seen lately.