Shortcutting… The Apostrophe

13 May

There is something about the apostrophe that confuses people a lot. I personally am a bit of a grammar freak, and it is a great cause of sorrow for me to see this little piece of punctuation getting so misused and abused by English speakers world-wide. Notice that other languages such as French and Spanish don’t have an apostrophe – all I can say is, nice move les bleus. Yes, saying ‘the car of my father’ every single time takes longer than simply ‘my father’s car’, so you could be forgiven for thinking that this blog would be in favour of the humble apostrophe, but you’d be wrong. The amount of grammatical atrocities committed by apostrophe-misusers is so high that I am actually a strong supporter of the apostrophe abolition movement (if there wasn’t such a thing till now, I have just founded it). But as the case is, the apostrophe is still an integral part of the English language, so here is a simplified guide of how to use it.

Put this logo on your blog to support the Apostrophe Abolition Movement.

One use of the apostrophe is to indicate possession. You probably knew this already, but hey, you did ask. Here are a few examples: my father’s car, Jenny’s birthday, Obama’s policies. If the word in the genitive (that is, the word that has something belonging to it) is singular, the apostrophe goes before the s. If the word in the genitive is plural, then it goes after the  s: my parents’ car, my friends’ birthdays, the Democrats’ policies.

You can also use it in contractions, to indicate missing letters e.g. do not → don’t, cannot → can’t, you are → you’re. And of course you wouldn’t be so foolish as to put the apostrophe in the wrong place, would you?

So the apostrophe either indicates ‘of/ belonging to’ or ‘I am omitting letters here’. Don’t use it for anything else. Come and buy some apple’s = WRONG. The player’s took to the field = WRONG. I ca’nt do it = VERY, VERY WRONG.

And remember the golden rule of apostrophes: WHEN IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT! An omitted apostrophe looks careless or lazy but an apostrophe impostor looks plain stupid. Don’t waste the ink.

Keep shortcutting…


P.S. There are some fussy little rules with words like its but this is a guide to shortcutting, so I have ignored them. Go look them up yourself if you’re that keen.


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