Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Apostrophe

I have noticed that many people don't seem to know how to spell singular words that end in -y in their plural form. The trend is to avoid -ies: "puppy's" instead of "puppies." I have been trying to figure out where the logic in this is, why the apostrophe is so commonly used for the plural and if and how these offenders' education systems may have failed them.

There are also instances where some people mistakenly use -ie's for the plural if the singular ends in -ie: "cookie's." I thinks this may represent a perception that it is incorrect to put an -s after a vowel.

Where do people learn that such offenses are right? Where do they read these? I'm wondering if these abuses of the apostrophe are a recent phenomenon, perhaps resulting from unprofessionally published situations like social networking. Perhaps constant perpetuation of incorrectness has prevented the feeling that this doesn't look quite right, or maybe some people don't fully understand punctuation because they don't read professionally published materials. Maybe some simply don't digest correct usage when they read.

Some argue that social networking and gadgets that have increased communication have boosted literacy by getting people reading and writing. Some also argue that grammar, punctuation and spelling don't matter as long as the meaning is understood by both sides communicating. What do you think and how do blog writing and blog reading play into all of this?


  1. Great post. I personally think that the number of individuals who are functionally illiterate is quite high. And I am always amazed at the number of entering freshmen and sophomores who are unable to produce a grammatically correct sentence.


  2. I'm horrified by the number of errors that appear all over the place - including in professionally produced print materials.

    The apostrophe plural is very common in the UK - specially on market stalls and discount shops. It used to be a class thing over here. People with a grammar school education usually understood spelling rules and the rest didn't.

    However, there are an increasing number of errors creeping in to the work of otherwise intelligent and well educated people.

    I don't want to be a tyrant about it - an occasional typo is fine - but an obvious lack of knowledge is a worrying thing.

  3. I think it is mainly younger people that do this, because they are so used to texting. I don't even like to misspell words when texting on my cell phone!
    I hope you are feeling well, by the way.

  4. My pet peeve is "It's" used as a possessive. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I feel better. It's a good thing I read your blog today.

  5. Jane - Yes, I wouldn't be surprised if you are correct, sadly. I've been wondering what factors might account for such alarming levels of illiteracy. Thanks for your insight. I'm assuming you are teaching in university?

    Morning - Yes! Many intelligent, well educated people people make errors too! That's what I don't get. Those apostrophe errors are rampant here too. How depressing that this seems to be a worldwide problem...

    Joe - As I just discussed above with Jane and MorningAJ, it seems to be a problem with many well educated adults too. But yeah, I think texting and other things may be creating other problems too.

    Bossy - Haha, I help anyway I can! I can actually understand "its" as a possessive. I admit I sometimes have to remind myself not to use it!

  6. I am absolutely a grammar/spelling critic. I can't stand when people use poor grammar and spelling. Ever heard of spell check if you're too busy to actually learn how to spell?? I can understand typos, but everything else just irritates me horribly! I should be nice though. :)

  7. Recently while I was waiting for a computer geek to check my computer I read the signs on the back wall of the section. There were three errors - one spelling, one apostrophe, one grammar. When I (very politely) told the young man he said yes, they knew about them, others had pointed them out but the manager said it wasn't important. I got a bit sniffy and replied, "Well, it's important to me, and I'm a customer." I took my computer elsewhere and saved myself $130 because the next man told me how I could fix the problem myself. And I bet the second man wouldn't have taken the same approach.
    Sorry, that was a bit of a rant.
    But I get quite cross when told these things aren't important.

  8. Achieve - Yes, it seems many make these mistakes because of laziness, but spell check won't help in many situations because it doesn't edit for usage, of course. It won't tell you which "There" to use, for example.

    I think the most mistakes are due to ignorance. A lot of people will take the time to put an apostrophe in, but use in a way that makes no sense at all. Thanks for stopping by!

    Pauline - Good for you for speaking up! This perception of grammar/punctuation being "unimportant" is just silly, but I've heard it before. First, why were the mistakes made in the first place? Don't businesses have some sort of editing/review process? Don't they realize these errors make them appear unprofessional? And anyway, how long does it really take to correct an error and reprint the sign? It's silly... Maybe they don't know how to correct the errors and are too stubborn and proud, lazy or ignorant to admit it and do something about it.