Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Battle of the Apostrophe!

Warning, Rant.

What happened to teaching basic grammar in school?

Many people seem to think that the possessive apostrophe is optional. Or they use it everywhere, just to be sure.

'He see's a problem!' Gahhhh!

Even if you weren't taught grammar in school, it is easy to learn. There are many helpful sites on the internet. Like this one. It has lots of sub topics so you can chase down exactly what you want to know.

Or Daily Grammar which was put together by someone even more obsessed than me. Or the Grammar Monster , a free online reference for business writers and students. Or this one where, if you have the internet, you can learn English using their tutorials. Did you know that a 'Gerund' is a noun made into a verb by adding 'ing'.

How about that Google? We say I googled it. I am googling it. I will google it. I have googled it. He is going to google it. The tenses go on and on.

And then there are the tricky words. I am constantly correctly 'affect' and 'effect'. Here is a site with an explanation of commonly confused words. And here is the Research Haven, with a list of words that are commonly mixed up. This is one I correct all the time.

Its is the possessive for it. (The dog ate its supper.)
It's is the contraction for it is. (It's another cold day.)

And then there are the times people just accept spellchecker without switching on their brains.

The creator made the earth in seven days, it is the 'crater'!

The thing is, if you are trying to write you are trying to say something specific. If you get your grammar wrong, it changes the meaning. If you choose the wrong word, it changes the meaning. And that is without even trying to create a distinctive voice, or convey the nuances of character.

It's been a long day, I'm going to make myself a strong cup of tea, now. Is it just me and I'm being overly obsessive?


John Lambshead said...

No you are not being pedantic. I refer you to the following website.


Misusing the apostrophe is a crime against society and should be punished severely by flogging......sorry, time for my medication.


PS I am sick of companies who can't spell or employ simple grammar on their notice boards.

Brendan said...

I have to admit to not being perfect in this regard but you aren't alone in being properly picky.

Some picture links to amuse and educate


Queen of Wands

Penny Arcade with 'Mr. Period Returns'

By the way, did you know there was a new use for the colon?

Colonoscopy: It’s Time to Check Your Colons

kesalemma said...

If you haven't read it already, I think you will enjoy this post at Hyperbole and a Half http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

I want an Alot ;)

C Kelsey said...

Ah, the apostrophe. My right pinky finger has a mind of its own and just *loves* to hit the apostrophe even when I don't want to. And then, because that dastardly flying comma can go stealth, I miss it in my proof readings. The apostrophe is the punctuation of the devil.

Metafrantic said...

I refer you to "Bob the Angry Flower's Guick Guide To the Apostrophe, You Idiots".


Mike said...

"Is it just me and I being overly obssessive?"

How about "Is it just me and I'm being overly obsessive?"

Er... that was a question, wasn't it?

Is there a rule that in any posting about grammar and punctuation, one will inevitably commit a faux pas?

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, you just hit on one of my biggest gripes. But I want to add into it the ever-evolving rules of commas. The grammar rules I grew up with, and that were hammered into my thick skull by some very determined teachers and professors, are quite different now. I find myself stopping and scratching my head over whether or not "too" -- when used as "also" -- is offset by a comma(s). There are others as well -- do you use a comma to separate independent clauses?

Making matters worse, some of the results I've seen come back from copy editors, and from editors, make my eyes cross. There are times I really wish we were back to no spell-check, no grammar-check and just the Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk & White.

Kate said...


Typos are a different category than wanton abuse of grammar.

That said, I recommend "Eats Shoots and Leaves" - it's the fun guide to grammar, if a tad... sanitized (Let's just say the version of the joke I grew up with used an Aussie verb that also means 'has sex' and leave it there).

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

John, you're right. It is important.

I see mistakes in signs and advertisements. Probably deliberate.

And don't get me started on Mom instead of Mum. If you are going advertise Mother's Day in Australia at least get the name right.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Brendan, I came across New and Exciting ways to use colons yesterday while marking.

A day sent marking was what prompted me to do the post.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I love it. The Alot cartoons are delightful!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Stealth Comma -- yes I have a problem with those, too.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

LOL, Metafrantic.

After a day spent marking essays I look a lot like Bob the angry flower.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Ah, Mike. Thank you for pointing that out. Sigh.

I think I shall go crawl under the desk.

No, I will climb upon the desk and declaim about the burden of marking student essays that drove me to make this faux pas. They have rotten my brain.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Amanda, I feel your pain ...

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Kate, yes Australian humour is very earthy. I remember the original version, too.

Stephen Simmons said...

My mother was a grade-school teacher. So was my grandmother. And my aunt was *my* third-grade teacher. Needless to say, I grew up with a firm understanding of the rudiments of grammar and punctuation. Yes, it drives me to distraction to see the simplest of errors in professional signage, websites, and business correspondence. I absolutely endorse Amanda's indictment of electronic spell-check and grammar-check functions being used as a substitute for the author knowing what he or she is doing. I do use them to help search for typographical errors, but you can't rely on them entirely even for that. (This post is awl spelled perfectly; my computer tolled me sew.)

On a semi-related note, a small-press publisher friend of mine posted this link on her blog today:

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Rowena. Take two past progressives and call me in the morning:)

Kate said...

To quote an old chestnut...

Candidate for a Pullet Surprise
by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.

(the whole poem can be found here

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Stepehn do you teach school?

Your friend is right. Where would we be without editors?

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris said:

Take two past progressives and call me in the morning:)

Chris, if I wasn't brain dead from marking, I'd make some witty comeback about past imperfect and present tense.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

LOL, Kate.

Ages ago, someone sent me a list English words that had two meanings like:

He wound the bandage around the wound.

How does anyone learn English?

Mike said...

Oh! The horror of homonyms. And then there are problems such as... hum, take the three words "to," "two," and "too." Now, how do you write the sentence "There are three [insert properly spelled word here referring to those three words] in English." Which I use as an example to help show the gap between spoken and written English. Or how do you read aloud the sentence, "There are two bows in English?" That's fun!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

So true, Mike.

Stephen Simmons said...

Rowena - No, I don't teach, although I did serve two separate instructor tours during my Navy career.