Apologies to the apostrophe

By: Blogger

There's a plague facing our great nation: everyday on message boards, forum comments, and sadly even advertisements, the scourge shows up inflicting more damage onto our innocent populace than we even realise.

No-one, it seems, knows how to use an apostrophe properly even though we were all taught this stuff as kids.

I can't seem to go out to lunch without restaurants advertising their takeout "menu's" or see adorable hunting "puppy's" for sale on Facebook.

Did we all just forget that if we want to write about more than one menu, it's an easy-as solution? All you have to do is add an 's' at end to make "menus." Voila! No tricks here, no need to overthink this one! 

I can understand that talking about more than one puppy might be a bit more difficult, but fortunately I've dug through my primary school notes. Words ending in 'y' change to 'ies" when talking about two or more things. 

"I have one puppy. You have three puppies."

The confusion comes in when talking about things we or someone else owns, so let's go back to the puppy example. 

The puppy most likely has a mum, and if we want to talk about the mum of the puppy, that's when the apostrophe comes to the rescue.

"My puppy's mum is a purebred."

Talking about the mum of more than one puppy? Whip out that old 'ies' rule again and top it off with an apostrophe at the end!

"Your puppies' mum is a mutt."

(Well that's a feisty conversation starter right there.)

Apostrophes show that something belongs to something else (your puppies' mum), not to indicate two or more of the same thing (three puppies).

Those tiny apostrophes do some heavy lifting though, because they also have another pretty important use.

Some of you will think this is absurd and a waste of time, but if we're all so worried about not being the tall poppy, why aren't we taking more care to not have our wretched spelling mistakes come out of the woodwork? People are pretty quick to scold a newspaper for grammatical errors — why not the same moral outrage when it comes to business signage?

Fortunately, I am not alone in my concern. In Britain an as yet anonymous, self-styled "grammar vigilante" has been prowling the streets for the past 13 years, changing offending shop signs in the dead of night. (Critics helpfully suggest he should start with his own name – apostrophes being a matter of punctuation rather than grammar.)

But I digress.

In addition to showing possession, apostrophes also can be used to merge two words in to one. We write "that's" when we're not up for writing "that" and "is". (FYI, joining two words like this is called a contraction.)

We say "you're" when we want to mean "you are" and "your" when something belongs to you.

Every time someone writes "your stupid" on Facebook, the irony isn't lost on many of us.

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