24 September 2010

apostrophes: a quick lesson in punctuation

Did you know that today is National Punctuation Day?  To celebrate, we're gonna have a little refresher about my good friend, the apostrophe.

Alright bloggy friends, let's make the internet a nicer place and learn how to use apostrophes correctly.  I learned how to use my punctuation correctly back in 4th grade, and it just somehow stuck with me all the way through AP Lit. and onwards into college.  I don't know what happened to the rest of the internet (too much texting, I gather), but I'd appreciate it if my Facebook wall, the blogosphere, and other frequented internet sites weren't cluttered with ignorant abuses of punctuation.  I know, I know, you're typing too fast and your thoughts get ahead of your Elements of Style, right?*

If you're gonna have a blog, learn to proofread and EDIT please!  I'll be the first to admit that I have stopped following a blog if the grammar mistakes are getting out of hand.  It makes me cringe, and it makes me think the writer is an idiot.  Also, I absolutely refuse to read a blog with an unintentional grammar issue in its title.  I know I'm not perfect either, but at least I'm trying over here.  And I have been known to go back and EDIT posts from weeks (yes, weeks!) ago if I notice an issue.  [And, no, I would not be offended if you called me out in the comments.  Unless you're just plain wrong.]

Call me a grammar snob, but here is a 3-minute lesson, and I hope some of it sticks.
  • Plural words:  This is probably where I see the most abuse.  They NEVER get apostrophes if they're not possessive also.  EVER.  I don't care if it's a proper noun.  The President and his family are the Obamas.  I like cats, submarines, restaurants, bistros, coupons, skillets, and biscuits on Saturdays.  I could go on all freakin' day.
  • It's and its:  It's = It is (or it has).  Always.  It's a nice day for the beach. It's got amazing horsepower.  Here's a tip: It's can almost always be made into 'tis, because they are a contraction of the same phrase.  If 'tis can't work, then drop the apostrophe because you've probably got a possessive on your hand.  Its is the possessive form of it.  Did you give the cat its water?  My car lost its left front tire. 
  • Possessives:  If it is a singular noun, the apostrophe goes before the S (with the exception of It).  This is Cat's blog!  She's using her husband's laptop.  If it is a plural noun that already has an S on the end, put the apostrophe after.  We're gonna have a bloggers' meet-up at the officers' club.  
  • Contractions and omissions.  This when you get to use apostrophes a lot.  Taking out a letter?  Use one.  Combining a noun and verb into one word?  Use one.  Writing in dialect?  Use a few.  Here's a sentence where there ain't nothin' wrong.  If you're attempting some complicated experiments in the English language, I promise not to cringe if you're slightly off.
*Also, did you take note of the CORRECT forms of you're versus your in that sentence up there?  You're = you are.  Your = possessive.  I'll tackle there, their, and they're another day.

If you want to brush up a little more on your punctuation or read about why it's important, check out the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss.  If you're shouting "Amen!" to everything I just said, check out the site Apostrophe Abuse.  If that site doesn't make you cringe, then you really need to brush up.

And how awesome is this guy?:

Now go forth, write with correct grammar, and make your high school English teacher proud.  But don't forget to proof that sucker.


  1. I don't even have to watch the video, it is burned into my mind from middle school and hysterical! I feel I am guilty far too often of not catching things, but I am the first to complain about obscene ignorance when writing. I wish people would tell me in comments- I'll go back and read it a day or two later to the hubs and feel like such an idiot!

  2. That's a great video! I often go back and fix mistakes. I'm the first to admit that I don't proofread that often, something I was often reminded to do in school. Somehow that didn't stick in all my AP classes. Oh well...you can always call me out on a mistake!

  3. I'm with Poekitten! I try to remember to proofread my blog entries before I post, but it doesn't always happen. If you see something, feel free to call me out!

  4. Love this post! I'm the same way...and I FREQUENTLY spot an error in a post WELL after I've published an go back to fix it....and sometimes I want to add in a new post letting people know I noticed my moment of stupidity and fixed my error! :-)

    When you tackle their/there/they're can you include to/too/two as well? Those drive me nuts!!!

  5. I've long been a fan of full punctuation (and spelling things out) in text messages. "Ur" has no place in anything I read on my phone, unless it's at the end of "your."

    Oh, and I noticed a slight mistake: in the second paragraph, you write "Also, I also..."

    My enthusiasm for correct punctuation does not always mean that my own blog is free of errors. I'm in agreement with most of your readers: tell me!

  6. Jacquie, thanks for the shout! We are the same when it comes to texting -- I just can't bring myself to say "Ur" (isn't that a city?).

    Transition error now fixed

  7. Perhaps you should consider doing a short tutorial on the use of commas. One about run-on sentences might also be in order.