Punctuation

3 Rules to Get Apostrophes Right Every Single Time (RIP Apostrophe Protection Society)

Last week we went to Hamburg, New York for the Thanksgiving holidays. (It’s my husband’s hometown.) And it seems I can’t escape the absurd use of apostrophes even when on vacation because I had to stare at this sign while trying to enjoy my beer:

We were at a cute neighborhood pub and I was drinking a tasty local brew called Frosty the IPA and eating Buffalo wings, of course, yet still. That sign annoyed me the whole time. Why do so many people get it wrong?

Sadly, it seems the incorrect use of the apostrophe is the new normal. In fact, the problem is so pervasive that the Apostrophe Protection Society has admitted defeat. They’ve given up the fight saying “ignorance and laziness” have won.

But as for me and my house, we will fight on!
In my own humble way, however, I want to keep fighting. The rules are simple and there are only three of them, so I think we can get it right every time…right? Maybe, just maybe, if people like you and me continue to use them correctly, others will emulate.

And really, we only have three rules to follow! Three! How hard can it be?

For quick review, below are the rules, stated as simply as I can manage:

Rule 1: Use an apostrophe to show possession:

  • Susan’s car
  • The teams’ bus
  • The businesses’ agendas (can also be businesses’s)

Rule 2: Use an apostrophe to form a contraction:

  • It’s for it is
  • You’re for you are
  • We’ll for we will

And remember: It’s is a contraction of it is. Its is a possessive. This is wrong wrong wrong because perfection has its price and apparently they couldn’t afford it:

Rule 3: Do not use an apostrophe to make a word plural:
Let’s restate that with appropriate emphasis: Don’t ever use an apostrophe to make a word plural ever, as in never ever! Oh, how I would like to talk to the person who made this sign! And really, why didn’t they use an apostrophe to make “occasions” plural too, to just go all out on this apostrophe abuse?

Three simple rules anyone can follow
Three rules, just three simple rules are all we have to know. OK, I take that back. Really we only need the one rule: Don’t ever use an apostrophe to make a word plural. Period.

What do you say? Are you with me? Shall we continue to fight for the apostrophe despite the demise of the Apostrophe Protection Society? If enough of us do it right, maybe others will learn from our example. Let’s try it and see!

And…maybe we should tackle the comma next? Because I just saw this and it totally flips correct comma usage, using one where it should be a period and using periods where we should see commas. Is there a Comma Protection Society? Because someone should report this:

 

Can you hear me sighing? (And if you like these tips, subscribe to my monthly email for more!)

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