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Apostrophes – do they matter?

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Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Ivan on Sun Jan 19, 2014 3:23 pm

I remember taking exams at school and invariably at the top of every question paper it would say: “Credit will be given for good English and the orderly presentation of material. Candidates who neglect these essentials will be penalised.” I used to think that was a strange thing to put on papers for subjects other than English.

The owners of this site have requested that we avoid SMS language and spelling mistakes (although they haven’t provided a spell check facility), and we have provided some tips, including use of the apostrophe, here:-
http://cuttingedge2.forumotion.co.uk/t391-posting-tips

The matter of apostrophes came into my mind when I read that Cambridge City Council has banned punctuation from new street names. Officers said they were following national guidance which warned apostrophes could lead to mistakes, particularly for emergency services. It’s not the first time this has happened, they were banned in Birmingham back in 2009.

This has infuriated the Good Grammar Company, whose spokesperson said: “Dropping apostrophes is pandering to the lowest denominator and while eradicating them anywhere is dreadful, it is particularly bad to do it in Cambridge, a city renowned for learning.”

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/News/Apostrophe-catastrophe-as-Cambridge-City-Council-bans-punctuation-from-new-street-names-20140117060000.htm

You live and learn, and I’ve now discovered that there exists the Apostrophe Protection Society. It was founded in 2001 by John Richards, a retired sub-editor, in response to his observations of widespread incorrect use of the apostrophe. The society reminds us of the basic rules:-
- Plurals don’t have apostrophes.
- Apostrophes signify possession, unless you are using the word ‘it’.
- Apostrophes are used for contractions.



http://www.redmolotov.com/blog/an-important-lesson-from-the-apostrophe-protection-society/

Even if we consider that good English matters in examinations, does it matter the rest of the time? After all, isn’t the primary purpose of language that it should be a means of communication, so that we can understand each other? As long as we know what someone is trying to say when they write something, does it matter if, for example, apostrophes are put in the wrong places or aren’t used at all? Do you take less notice of what another poster has to say if it is not well expressed? Or is all this just for geeks and grammar fascists?  Rolling Eyes 
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by buckspygmy on Sun Jan 19, 2014 4:06 pm


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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Jan 19, 2014 5:17 pm

The Defence rest's MLord.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Shirina on Mon Jan 20, 2014 6:40 pm

Egad, the "plural-possessive" issue with apostrophes is one of my big peeves when it comes to writing. Usually I can let some obvious mistakes go, the kind we all make from time to time when typing. Switching letter orders and such (rogue and rouge is a popular one, or spelling "the" as "teh").

But the apostrophe issue isn't a matter of bad typing. The thing that has irritated me about the incorrect usage of the apostrophe is that it was caused by the internet. Enough people were getting it wrong that millions of people began thinking that the correct usage was actually incorrect and immediately started to use apostrophes INcorrectly. Thanks to the illiterate and the literate-but-lazy crowd, I'm seeing the possessive/plural apostrophe swap on even professional publications, signs, fliers, and title pages. This wasn't the case in previous years and most people understood how to use apostrophes. Now ... the mistake is everywhere. I'm just waiting for the official grammar folks to actually declare that a sentence like, "Around 50 dog's participated in the show," is now grammatically correct.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by boatlady on Mon Jan 20, 2014 7:17 pm

I have to say, wrong punctuation, wrong use of words, lazy spelling and all that other good stuff really grate on me and I find I want to leap in and correct people, which can make you enemies, because, as you point out Shirina the majority tends to rule on such matters.

The aggravating thing is, that stuff IS important - use of the apostrophe can affect the meaning of a word and lead to misunderstandings - and don't even get me started on the folk that use 'pacific' meaning 'specific' and other such misnomers.

On another forum, a couple of years ago, I was roundly abused by a dozen or more contributors for suggesting that it would facilitate communication if people would take the trouble to check, before posting something, that they'd really said what they meant to say. I was accused among other things of snobbery, elitism and bullying less fortunate people who had not the benefit of my education. I think adults often get

oops! didn't finish - probably no point now

 Embarassed 


Last edited by boatlady on Tue Jan 21, 2014 5:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Mon Jan 20, 2014 7:20 pm

Apostrophes - do they matter?

Or, put another way : accuracy - does it matter?


One of the more common errors is the use of "it's" when referring to something belonging to (eg) a dog ( to follow on from Shirina's post above).

" The dog slipped it's collar". NO! It should be: " The dog slipped its collar". " It's" always means " it is" - or, at least, should do.

 Even educated folk seem to fall into this trap, let alone the less-able such as me!       Embarassed
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jan 21, 2014 9:53 am

All languages evolve over time, so the six-hundred-year-old Middle English of Chaucer is not easy for us to read. Shakespeare is more comprehensible, but still not the way we speak now. Business correspondence is more relaxed in the age of e-mail, and communication more personal.

That's the key word, communication. It is the entire purpose of having a language so everyone must agree on its forms, rules and usage. The grammar, syntax and spelling of English survive only as long as everybody is broadly in agreement.

Other languages manage without the apostrophe, but often have written accents that govern pronunciation, which is why our spoken English is such a minefield for foreigners, with words like bough, cough and tough lying in ambush. Any two Brits meeting in a foreign country can "read" each others' probable biography during a short exchange of pleasantries.

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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:56 am

All true, ow.

I guess the kids at my old school no longer have to handwrite a hundred times : " I must endeavour to curb the exuberance of my verbosity " as a punishment for current-day transgressions.

Not that I was ever found to warrant such a sanction, you understand...   Embarassed
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jan 21, 2014 5:14 pm

I wish I could have said the same, Phil. In language class I was once given 100 lines (in English) "No comes before the verb in Spanish" Unfortunately I disremembered and wrote "after" one hundred times so had to do it all over again.

Schooldays - the happiest days of your life!
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Tue Jan 21, 2014 5:49 pm

Surely your fag could have been instructed to carry out the task, ow...?

On the subject of the need for punctuation, I was taken by an item in a magazine about a year ago about children playing at 'cowboys'. The piece was headed : " Stick 'em up, Roy Rogers".

How unfortunate it might have been, I mused, if the heading had suffered the accidental omission of that comma...        Shocked
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:16 pm

"accidental omission of that comma..."

Not to be confused with irrigation of the colon, you understand.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:57 pm

... or the Acts of the Apostrophes...
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:29 pm

Who fortunately are long-dead, so need not detain us. So why is everybody so concerned with putting "e" after "c" except when there is an "r" in the month?
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:46 am

I suspect, ow, that it is because it's an ill wind 'twixt cup and lip...
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Ivan on Tue Jan 28, 2014 2:21 pm

Arbitrary apostrophes in place-name signs

Why do some stations on the London Undergound have apostrophes, but not all?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/10599926/Arbitrary-apostrophes-in-place-name-signs.html
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:42 pm

It all began with Saint Vitus' Dance, or Vitus's, according to current Vatican doctrine at the time of writing.  But only in the English language, which not all English-speakers comprehend anyway, and is destined to be replaced by Eurospeak. There isn't a wood at St. John's Wood but who's counting? Incidentally, British children are now being taught that there are only 44 sounds in English. Not a lot of people (apart from the Gove person) know that.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Tue Jan 28, 2014 7:02 pm

Mark my words : if we let the populace become sloppy with apostrophes, the next thing will be the demise of the pluperfect subjunctive...       Crying or Very sad
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by boatlady on Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:09 pm

lol! 

Im not sure that matter's

 Basketball
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jan 28, 2014 11:00 pm

Did Magna Carta die in vain, then?
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by moonbeam on Thu Mar 27, 2014 1:28 am

I never saw this topic before, but it's timely that I've seen it now. Just this week, I've seen two people comment on the ProBoard support forum that they are teachers who created forums for their students. BOTH posters made mistakes - and not simple typos, either -  in their posts. I don't think either had to do with apostrophes but it does make you wonder how a teacher can be a teacher when they can't do it correctly themselves.

Anyway, apostrophes do matter, and it's a pet peeve of mine when used incorrectly as well. My son hates when I read over his writing homework. I'm a stickler on spelling, punctuation, and structure. No, I'm not perfect at it either, but I do catch the most glaring mistakes.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by boatlady on Thu Mar 27, 2014 8:47 am

Welcome to the grammar and punctuation Nazis - I can't abide spelling mistakes, bad punctuation or sloppy use of language (pacific for specific e.g.)
I try very hard to bite my tongue because I'm not a teacher, and I do believe that what people say is really more important than how they say it --- but a little voice inside me roars in agony every time I see the language being abused and deformed
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Ivan on Thu Mar 27, 2014 9:38 am

I agree with boatlady that what you say is more important than how you say it, but there are limits. In my early days as a teacher, I was sent a report on a child which read:-
 
Monica has a lot of work uncomplete which suggest homework is not been done consciensously. Grade 5.”
 
Both the girl’s first name and last name were also spelt incorrectly. I’m not sure the report merited a Grade 5, more like ungraded.
 
I took it back to the teacher who had written it and told him that I couldn’t possibly send that to the girl’s parents. His excuse was that he taught Physics, not English.
 
Maybe he’d written his reports after coming back from the pub, who knows? But that one made such an impression that I’ve never forgotten its precise wording!
 
P.S. Now should I have written ‘spelt’ or ‘spelled’ above? Apparently, it depends on whether I’m English or American:-
 
http://www.grammar-monster.com/easily_confused/spelled_spelt.htm
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Thu Mar 27, 2014 9:45 am

Join the club, boatlady.

At one level it may seem pedantic, but if you have been taught how to 'do it properly' it grates. I guess we all make errors, but in so many cases we are really looking at laziness as much as ignorance.

Worst of all is that on those occasions where a mistake, or misuse, is pointed out, the perpetrator professes loudly not to care. It was not long ago that oftenwrong picked me up on a word into which I had, incorrectly, introduced a hyphen . A lesson learned for me and a useful correction.

 Just wait until I see him sometime....    Embarassed
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Mar 27, 2014 10:18 am

To err is human; to forgive, divine.
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

Why use a semi-colon there, rather than make the first four words a complete sentence, and then introduce a comma before the word divine?

Critic's opinion of London Musical production:

Les Miserables pronounced success.

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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Thu Mar 27, 2014 10:27 am

I assume that the chosen punctuation assists with the particular degree of 'pause' appropriately required when the words are spoken ...?
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Mar 27, 2014 7:15 pm

enter stage left, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,

To be, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Oh, do get on with it Duckie!
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Fri Mar 28, 2014 6:51 am

Shut up - you in the cheap seats...     silent
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:40 am

Yep!  That's me. Cheap.

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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by boatlady on Fri Mar 28, 2014 10:10 am

Nice bum though
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Fri Mar 28, 2014 5:26 pm

afraid 
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Penderyn on Sat Mar 29, 2014 4:54 pm

It is a mistake to appear ignorant: the powerful can patronise you.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Sat Mar 29, 2014 6:14 pm

Penderyn wrote:It is a mistake to appear ignorant:   the powerful can patronise you.

At least one chap has nevertheless used that ploy to deflect criticism during much of a successful career as journalist, MP and Mayor of London.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by boatlady on Sat Mar 29, 2014 7:47 pm

I expect if you've been to Eton your ignorance is interpreted as ironic - unlike the rest of us plebs
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Penderyn on Sat Apr 19, 2014 5:09 pm

oftenwrong wrote:
Penderyn wrote:It is a mistake to appear ignorant:   the powerful can patronise you.

At least one chap has nevertheless used that ploy to deflect criticism during much of a successful career as journalist, MP and Mayor of London.

True - but he was so rich and powerful that he could afford to.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by stuart torr on Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:22 am

I personally believe that comma's are important, in so much it also allows the reader to digest the sentence, or part there of without having to go through it all, without a slight breather for his/her eyes.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by boatlady on Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:44 pm

Where do you stand on colons and semicolons?
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:47 pm

I may need to sit down before the answer arrives...    Very Happy
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by boatlady on Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:57 pm

Better than having your colon stood on

 afraid 
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:04 pm

If it was stood upon too hard, could it become a semi-colon...?   Shocked
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by stuart torr on Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:41 pm

Hi boatlady and phil,
Are you sitting comfortably? Laughing  well when you remember to use them, I believe that both colons and semi-colons are important, as it helps show the reader your intelligence.
When you get to sloppy with your writing, it can mean that you are sloppy with other things in your life.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

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