Apostrophes, and how not to use them

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Apostrophes, and how not to use them

Apostrophes: The punctuation mark most likely to freak out the grammatically obsessive compulsive.

Some of us have learned to block out excessive exclamation marks, deal with over-earnest ellipses… come to terms with Tenuous Title Case, and cope with careless comma splices, but when someone uses an apostrophe to indicate a plural, we may twitch a little. Some of us may clench our jaws. Some may refuse to order any item from the menu that contains a disenfranchised apostrophe. Some people need to chill out a little.

And think before apostrophising!

Just kidding!

For some reason, many people have tendency to add an apostrophe s to countable nouns that end in a vowel when they want to pluralise them.

These are sometimes called ‘greengrocers’ apostrophes’, as in:

Avocado’s—3 for just your entire week’s wage.

Or you might see it as: taxi’s, photo’s etc.

Please don’t do this! Like with any other countable thing—like dogs, cats or opinions—to make a plural, just add an s.

This also applies to initialisms and acronyms. One MP, 2 MPs. Stack them; collect the whole set.

The simple reason is clarity.

If you use an apostrophe to make a plural, how do you then indicate possession for that plural?

How do you talk collectively about MPs’ benefits? (Those that apply to all of them.) If you’ve used an apostrophe to pluralise, you’re going to end up with a weird double apostrophe situation:

The MP’s’ benefits?

As a side note, I met someone recently who had the perverse habit of saying—as a plural for Directors General—’Dees-Gee’ (DsG). Besides being an uncommonly encountered form of hypercorrection, being clunky, and—tenuously—confusable with Direct Shift Gearboxes, it would make the sense of group possession hard to apply… DsG’s agreement?

More Adventures in Apostrophe Land coming soon…

By | 2017-05-19T08:20:56+00:00 March 1st, 2015|Did you know, Grammar, Punctuation|0 Comments

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Writer, editor, musician, plain English evangelist, content ninja for hire, and general web guy, Rory does lots of things, when he has time...

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