Sunday, May 15, 2011

You Wouldnt Believe the Error's

I have to smile when I see my 15-year old daughter correcting her friends' poor spelling and/or grammar while they are posting on her Facebook wall. Most of their errors are in the they're/there/their and you're vs. your milieu. The usual suspects...

I say this since my daughters were practically toddlers, we have been playing a little game. We will be out anywhere- at a restaurant, shopping, at the park- you name it. I tell the kids, "I bet Daddy can find a misspelled word or bad grammar somewhere!" And true to form, I usually can find some sort of error on a sign, advertisement, or menu. It doesn't take much effort...

Over the past year something has jarred me. Maybe it's an epidemic. Maybe I just didn't notice it before. Maybe it's yet another snapshot of the dumbing down of America. I'll state it this way:

How many people were absent that day in the third grade when proper usage of apostrophes was taught??!!

The error I see time and again is the use of an apostrophe to make a noun plural. For example, here's a picture I took at my car dealership's service window last week when I got my car serviced:

"Saturday's"?? Saturday owns who or what at this Saab dealership?

Then there was this posting in the Mansfield News to advertise that MESA (the Mansfield Elementary School Association) would be holding a "casino night" fundraiser:

"Mansfield School's"?? Geez, don't they still have something called a copy editor??

Then there is the opposite grammatical crime: the sin of omission. For example, I was walking the east side of Providence and noticed this outside of a medical office:

"Apostrophe?? We don't need no stinkin' apostrophe at this doctors office!!"

The sad fact is that it didn't take me much time at all to find these errors and take some quick pictures on my Blackberry. Just like the game I play with my daughters...

Alas, I take comfort in the kindred spirits that have started the Apostrophe Protection Society, a group of Brits who formed the society with "the specific aim of preserving the correct use of this currently much abused punctuation mark in all forms of text written in the English language."

To summarize from our friends at the APS, there are only three simple rules for correct usage of the apostrophe:

1. They are used to denote a missing letter or letters, for example: "I can't" instead of "I cannot"

2. They are used to denote possession, for example: the dog's bone
... however, if there are two or more dogs, in our example, the apostrophe comes after the 's':
the dogs' bones

3. Apostrophes are NEVER ever used to denote plurals!

Simple enough, no? The apostrophe is your friend.... don't abuse it!!

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