Self-Editing Tip #10

31 Jul

The Apostrophe: Ownership versus Plurals—Today’s tip covers a topic which has numerous examples both of what to do and what not to do.

Look at the graphic. Can you spot the apostrophe catastrophe? It reads, “Parent’s please do not let your kid’s stand or play with the chair’s. Thank you.”

There are actually three, and let’s not even get started with the strange parentheses or half-quotation marks going on there, or even how every “T” is capitalized regardless of its placement in the word.

All three apostrophes are placed incorrectly. In this example, they aren’t needed at all. Placing an apostrophe in such a way does not make a plural noun as the writer of this sign seems to think. It means those nouns are showing ownership of something.

Ex. Ellen’s TV show is very funny.

To make a word plural, simply add an “s.” The sign should read, “Parents, Please do not let your kids stand or play with the chairs. Thank you.” I would also argue that it should say, “stand on or play with the chairs,” but semantics is not our topic.

The only instance where an apostrophe is ever needed for a plural word is when the plural noun is also showing ownership over a plural object. In cases such as these, the apostrophe belongs after the “s.”

Ex. The butterflies’ cocoons were nearly ready to hatch.

Not shown in the image, but equally important and misused, are apostrophes for contractions. These are words like, “it’s,” “aren’t,” “can’t,” “we’re,” and so on, where two words have been merged for convenience and less formal usage. It is especially important to remember the apostrophe for, “it’s,” and “we’re,” as removing it still leaves us with valid words, but drastically different implications on the same sentence.

Ex. We’re going to lunch.=We are going to lunch.

Were going to lunch.=incomplete sentence

OR We were going to lunch.

Ex. It’s time to go.=It is time to go.

Its time to go.= incomplete sentence

OR Its time to go drew near.

For more grammar information, come back regularly for new tips. Also check out Martha Kolln and Loretta Gray’s book Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects (6th or 7th edition). I’ve mentioned it before and will continue to do so. It’s really vital for anyone looking to learn the nuances of Standard Written American English (SWAE) or refresh what they already know.

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One Response to “Self-Editing Tip #10”

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  1. Pro-Tip: Punctuation Quick Fix | Red Ink Enthusiast™ - January 4, 2016

    […] Apostrophes: I see a lot of apostrophes used to make words plural. This is incorrect. The pluralize a word, […]

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