Thursday, September 10, 2009

Apostrophes are your friend; don't abuse your friend

It’s high time that we learn to embrace the apostrophe (as well as a lot of other abused and neglected punctuation marks), my dear friend.

Every piece of punctuation is important, but today I’m here to fight for the apostrophe, one of the most misunderstood marks of punctuation.

Our apostrophe problems exist for a number of reasons, the first being a miniature communication lifeline called the cell phone. The problem itself is not the technology, but simply the fact that text messaging severely limits the amount of space we have to express ourselves. Punctuation, like the apostrophe, and even letters are often omitted because of spacing issues, not just to annoy grammar sticklers like me.

Second, we don’t read enough. Society in general places little to no significance on books. Sit down and read? Psh! Why would I do that when I could play this video game instead? Don’t get me wrong, I love “The Sims” as much as the next Sim-obsessed person you come across, but video games don’t really make us any smarter. And don’t even get me started on the brain-numbing qualities of television (especially reality TV).

And third and finally, a lot of books break the grammar rules we know and love. I’m all for rebelling against authority, but, Cormac McCartthy, you have gone too far. Just because I understand what “dont” means, does not mean I am OK with you banishing virtually all apostrophes from your book. McCarthy writes with a theory of “necessary” punctuation, omitting anything you don’t absolutely have to have to understand the sentence. In short, if you’d like an example on how NOT to write your next English paper, please read “The Road.”

But, I digress. I am not here to merely point out your flaws, but to help you fix them, as well.

There are two uses for the apostrophe:

1. Showing possession

2. Saving spots for missing letters

That’s it, people.

Apostrophes do not – I repeat, DO NOT – make words plural. Ever. I don’t care what obscure or outdated rule you think you know.

Correct: It’s raining outside.

Here, “It’s” equals “It is,” and the apostrophe is saving a spot for “i” in “is.”

Also correct: Miss Martin’s blog is totally awesome!

It’s my blog, hence the apostrophe, showing that I own it. (OK, OK, so really the Statesman owns it, but… whatever.)

Not correct: Zucchini’s, squash and tomatoes

Really? Zucchini’s what? I wasn’t even aware that vegetables could own anything! And, if you’re wondering, I really did see this on a sign for homegrown veggies. Amazingly, they got the other two right.

Also not correct: The 80’s called, they want their big hair and legwarmers back.

OK, OK. I love ’80s fashion as much as the next trendsetting, leg-warmer-wearing girl, but the real problem here is the apostrophe in “80’s.” It implies that the era owns something, and, yeah, it doesn’t. Two correct options? “’80s” or “1980s”

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