Apostrophe use: a dying artform. A rant.

The email from a member of the technical support team began:

“Hi Lady’s,
Now your both up and running…”

Sorry, but I’m afraid you lost me at “Lady’s”.

I admit it. I’m a pedant. Grammar, spelling, punctuation: they all irritate me when incorrect. I was taught well by my mother when I was a child, and I grew up with the overwhelming urge to correct people; to right the writing wrongs of society and enlighten my social inferiors to their grammatical sins. I have been known to send follow-up emails to correct shameful errors that somehow slipped through my editing (just to prove to any eagle-eyed readers that I do indeed understand correct usage), and delete then re-post Facebook status updates that were inadvertently sent off into the ether with – oh, horror! – a mistake!!

Oh, yes. Facebook. The place where the illiterate and the sloppy share with the world their inability to use the English language, and their well-honed ability to destroy it. Or, more likely, ‘distroy’ it.

But apostrophe abuse really gets my goat – poor thing. Why is it so difficult for people to understand the simple debate of contraction vs plural? Why is it so hard to understand that if there are letters missing, they can be shown with an apostrophe, but if you’re (that’s a contraction of ‘you are’ by the way) talking about multiple whatsits, then none is needed? That is the job of the ‘S’ – to show other Angles that you refer to more than one whatsit.

Someone I work with only recently discovered that I’m left-handed after two years, and another colleague I shared the amusement with replied in an email: “Your left handed???!!! Haha.” My fingers were just itching to reply with: “My left handed what..?” Of course, I was unsure at that point whether he would have got the joke, and I otherwise respect and like him…so I managed to restrain myself.

When I was at high school I did frequently correct the writing of my best friend in English class. Strangely enough, we’re actually still very close. She actually writes very well, and spells and punctuates much better than she used to!

But Facebook, where – I confess – I do spend more time than really necessary, is a noticeboard for poor education. Posts like “Your the best”, “Its a nice day”, “There gonna love this”, etc make me squirm with unease. My mother has often said that exhibiting grammatical errors is like showing your underwear. Or should that be you’re underwear..?

I did however find some vindication when I was on a short summer holiday in Lorne, on the Victorian coastline. A cafe sign advertised “Pizza, Foccacia, Milkshakes, Coffee’s, Cold Drinks.” Now, I don’t know why they only sold one pizza and focaccia (correct spelling) and multiple other things, but I just couldn’t get past the possessive coffee. Coffee’s what?? Oh, the suspense!

Well, it must have been the sun that empowered me. I had a black permanent marker with me. I returned with my friend (who, I’m sorry to say, does not share my obsession with being right) and my marker that evening. And I boldly stood before the sign and corrected it! Yes, I coloured in that poor, ill-used apostrophe and liberated it from eternally confusing the coffee, and people like me, who wondered what on earth had been left off the sign. I committed an act of graffiti – for the correction of a public error and the greater good of the general populace. Felt quite good, really.

My public service, Lorne, 2012

P.S. This was my very first post, after only starting this blog a few days ago. I was so excited to get an email informing me that I’d been selected for Freshly Pressed, and eagerly awaited seeing this title on the front page. Well, when my iPhone started vibrating incessantly a couple of hours ago with email notifications, I realised it must have arrived!

I feel so honoured by the comments I’ve received and look forward to reading them all and posting more replies, but my computer’s old and slow, and it’s the middle of the night in Australia and I have to work tomorrow…but I’m so, so thankful to everyone who’s taken the time to read anything I’ve written, and especially to comment. This has been an enormous thrill and I will endeavour to keep writing posts that people will want to read. Oh – I don’t know why I seem to have to ‘approve’ all comments before they appear. I thought I’d allowed comments but I’m new! I haven’t worked everything out yet. But if you do comment and don’t see it, I thank you and will approve it when I can!


~ LQ ~
Melbourne, 2.07am

251 thoughts on “Apostrophe use: a dying artform. A rant.

  1. Ford says:

    Its really sad you cant adapt and adjust and just not care when people dont write as you wish them to 😦

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