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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

First topic message reminder :

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 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?

Post by Phil Hornby on Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:09 pm

"I believe that both colons and semi-colons are important, as it helps show the reader your intelligence."

Quite so; but only if they get used in the correct places...       Smile
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by boatlady on Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:26 pm

They're very useful in texts
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:26 pm

We should all be grateful that we haven't had to learn English as a second language. Spelling is all over the place, as is pronunciation (Slough, cough, through) and relatively few Englishmen and women understand the correct use of syntax - so Heaven help the foreigner, especially those who are accustomed to read from the back of a book forwards.

Thank you God. To have been born British is to have won the First Prize in the race of life. (Cecil Rhodes)
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Ivan on Thu Jul 10, 2014 7:50 am

Thank you God. To have been born British is to have won the First Prize in the race of life. (Cecil Rhodes)
I'm not sure that that's true these days. Having been to Germany a number of times in recent years, I've seen a country which is more equal than Britain, where they have worker representation on boards of companies and where hotels, restaurants and rail fares are cheaper than in this country. They even know how to play football.

Sorry for deviating from the topic.  Embarassed
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Thu Jul 10, 2014 8:42 am

"...(Slough, cough, through)..."


And just to deviate some more  - temporarily , of course, ( see those commas, eh?!) - what word could a foreigner make of 'ghoti' if they had studied 'English' phonics ?

Answers on a postcard attaching a Fifty Pound note, please...     Shocked
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by boatlady on Thu Jul 10, 2014 10:04 am

You don't see many of them in these parts
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by stuart torr on Thu Jul 10, 2014 10:43 am

Nor these, it's mainly twenties and tens folk.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Thu Jul 10, 2014 3:19 pm

I've just spent some of ow's fifty on lunch. Very generous of him, although they did think the note was a little on the small side. I told them it was a new European Directive to save paper and they seemed happy, smiled, and called the Police.

 No takers on 'ghoti'... ?
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by stuart torr on Thu Jul 10, 2014 3:43 pm

I had actually forgotten about that fill?
"ghoti" is a word used mainly in Bengal, to highlight the irregularities in English.
It actually means fish, the gh=f o=I ti=sh.
Is that close enough for you?
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Thu Jul 10, 2014 3:51 pm

Quite correct, of course -and not an apostrophe in sight...       Smile
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by stuart torr on Thu Jul 10, 2014 4:32 pm

That's what happens when I post Phil, I'm concentrating on the answer, then I forget the other bits.  headbang 
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by stuart torr on Sat Jul 12, 2014 2:03 pm

Well I was enjoying that discussion, now it's suddenly come to a halt?
Any poster start another, so we can get discussing again?
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Sat Jul 12, 2014 7:24 pm

.... concentrating on the answer, you forget the other bits ....
Don't we all, Stuart?  Frequently.  It explains why so many of us stray off the original subject-matter because something written reminds us of something else.

As a device used by authors, its name is "stream-of-consciousness" but it's not merely a literary trick, it happens to be our normal manner of thought.  The mind flits from one thing to another like a little bird hopping from branch to branch.

See what happened there?  Two different forms of the word its and it's (sigh).  Damn apostrophes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stream_of_consciousness_(narrative_mode)
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by stuart torr on Sat Jul 12, 2014 8:50 pm

Exactly oftenwrong.
If it doesn't work for authors all the time, the expected experts, how are we expected to get it right all the time?
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Sat Jul 12, 2014 10:49 pm

how are we expected to get it right all the time?

Anyone who expects me to get everything right every time, Stuart, is doomed to disappointment.

As long as you know you've done your best, that should be good enough for others too.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by stuart torr on Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:12 pm

The same goes for me too oftenwrong.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Ivan on Thu Nov 20, 2014 5:18 pm

I nearly said that even the great and the good can have trouble with apostrophes, but I’m about to talk about Nigel Farage and he doesn’t fit into either category........

Alan Sked founded UKIP in 1993, but he now thinks the party has become “a Frankenstein’s monster”. And this is what he says about Farage:-

Farage has managed to charm parts of the electorate with his beer-swilling everyman image. "Behind that image is someone who isn't bright," says Sked, who recalls trying to give the public school-educated Farage remedial grammar lessons: "I spent two hours trying to explain to him the difference between 'it's' with an apostrophe and 'its' without and he just flounced out of the office saying, 'I just don't understand words.'"

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/26/ukip-founder-alan-sked-party-become-frankensteins-monster
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Nov 20, 2014 5:38 pm

Mr Farage is typical of so many businessmen and politicians who are rather proud of their ability to fly by the seat of their pants as they like to put it.

Or making it up as they go along as others might put it.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by stuart torr on Thu Nov 20, 2014 5:41 pm

He understands very little apart from lying, and drinking, does he Ivan? beat me to it a little OW.


Last edited by stuart torr on Thu Nov 20, 2014 5:43 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : ADD A FEW WORDS)
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Dr Sheldon Cooper PhD on Sun Feb 22, 2015 2:57 pm

Phil Hornby wrote: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

Another quite common error I notice is the use of there instead of their, and their instead of they're. Browser software usually has a spell-checker, (or is that spellchecker? Rolling Eyes) in the settings menu. Though for the more common mistakes I do wonder why some people repeat them when the answer is a Google click away.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Feb 22, 2015 11:06 pm

Spellcheck can't help you where the word is a homonym (e.g. there and their) because the correct spelling depends on context. Why don't we get wet when a King reigns? How can a theatre critic write, "Hamlet pronounced success" without foreign students committing suicide?
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Mar 01, 2015 7:30 pm

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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by boatlady on Sun Mar 01, 2015 8:27 pm

cute
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Foxcliffe on Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:04 pm

Ivan wrote:......the basic rules:-
...
- Apostrophes are used for contractions.

Yet the Apostrophe Protection Society mocks Tesco for falling foul of the above rule by applying it to contraction of the words newspapers & magazines in an effort to save space.  Now, whilst mag might indeed be seen as a clipped form of the word magazine and therefore not subject to the use of apostrophe, new implies a totally different connotation than newspaper.  Personally I think they shoot themselves in the foot misrepresenting this as an example of  "plural-possessive"; rather, instead, strengthening the argument of those calling for abolition.  

The world of the apostrophe is a minefield that even I, who would claim experience of its usage, fall foul of at times.  The internet is a powerful tool.  It is also, as Shirina points out, rife with misinformation as a search on Jones', Jones's and Joneses will reveal.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Foxcliffe on Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:08 pm

boatlady wrote:......lazy spelling and all that ...really grate on me  

Then I probably need to beg your forgiveness in advance, boatlady.  Whilst I am comfortable in the use of formal English to expound or expand upon a serious topic and would employ it by preference in those situations, I have a habit of slipping into more colloquial language or even dialect for less constrained conversation.  Though, other than that (should it be acceptable), I would welcome any correction of my misuse of language.  I am a firm believer that one is never too old to learn and fully aware that we can all slip into bad habits if not guarded, confessing without reservation that I struggle to recall that long ago lesson on the use of  the colon and semicolon (and equally aware that I use parenthesis far too often Smile ).


Last edited by Foxcliffe on Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Foxcliffe on Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:18 pm

moonbeam wrote:...they are teachers who... made mistakes

I have this dim and distant memory of a cartoon, possibly published in the Times Educational Supplement, depicting a pimply youth alongside a legend to the effect of 'Wunce I cudnt eevn spel teecher. Now I are wun.'  Perhaps more applicable today than it was then?

A pet hate of mine, in terms of written language, is the falling standard in both physical and digital reading matter; books, blogs etc.  As Shirina says above, the internet has a lot to answer for but the root of the problem lies in the educational system.  If our teachers are not educated to a high enough standard how can they be expected to impart good practice to their pupils.  

In addition I believe blame can also be attributed to two other major factors; globalisation and television.  As part of its remit, the BBC originally had a responsibility to educate.  Today emphasis is placed upon entertainment and, in response to popular demand (in order to maintain ratings), this has seen a dumbing down of broadcast.  We speak as we hear, we write as we speak, so it should come as no surprise that the younger generation does not adhere to the standards of their forebears.  The shrinking of the world through trade, transport and communication methods has seen adoption of words of many cultures into the English language.  Not in itself an issue since language is a living thing but the close nature of American English to British English results in ever more increased co-mingling.  If one were reading a book in French it would not go unnoticed if any of the content slipped into everyday usage.  Much to my constant ire, the same cannot be said of Americanisations.

I have an inclination to be more forgiving of poor language in written conversational situations because I always have, in the back of my mind, an inkling that the perpetrator may not be as fortunate as I, may suffer some form of dementia or other cognitive disability (I have one of these) or may be practising English as a second and unfamiliar language - and, lets face it, there is no better way to learn than by practise.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Wed Jun 10, 2015 11:13 pm

But tell that to the youngsters of today, Foxcliffe, and THEY WON'T BELIEVE YOU.

Unless you express it entirely in emojis of course.

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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Foxcliffe on Thu Jun 11, 2015 12:01 am

oftenwrong wrote:But tell that to the youngsters of today, Foxcliffe, and THEY WON'T BELIEVE YOU.
Laughing
The youth of today are a law unto themselves, oftenwrong, but then probably every generation of elders says as much of its offspring.
lol!
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by boatlady on Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:43 am

Once you hear yourself using those time honoured words, then you know you're a grown-up.

I do think education in basic grammar and spelling has been much neglected since I was at school - started I think with an understanding that too much reliance on strict rules at the outset perhaps delayed some children's learning so when children started to learn literacy the focus was on the content of written work rather than correctness of grammar and spelling - but there never seems to be a time in a child's later learning when those early mistakes can be ironed out - and of course no-one learns Latin any more, which gives us so much information about how our modern language is constructed
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Thu Jun 11, 2015 9:49 am

If anyone dares to comment upon incorrect spelling, punctuation etc., they are often accused of assuming a role as the 'grammar/spelling police'.

I assume that those critics of the admonishment about usage are perfectly content if a shop assistant suggests that it is acceptable to give them 25 pence change when they have proffered £1 for an item costing 50 pence.

Such hypocrisy is surely something up with which we should not put...    Shocked
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Foxcliffe on Thu Jun 11, 2015 11:44 am

I don't see the analogy. I understand where you are coming from, Phil, but short changing someone in a commercial transaction is not the same as admonishment. But I do agree that the critics should look deeper into their psyche.

If I was making a fool of myself, getting something wrong because I didn't know any better, surely it is a kindness to alert me to my omission? Pointing out an error is not an admonishment, only the method of delivery. Neither would I be aggrieved that someone went out of their way to help me better myself, rather I would be more grateful for the opportunity offered and the effort that they had gone to to enable me to do so.

Let's take for example (since I have used it above) the use of the indefinite article and words commencing h. Most people know that the rule states that you use an. What some don't realise is that rules are made to be broken and sometimes you should use a. An is only used if the h is silent as in an 'otel. However the h is not always silent so, if you were talking of a book by Ernest Hemmingway, you would refer to a Hemmingway novel. Sometimes it can go either way so you have an 'ouse or a house but not all h words, as is the case with our renowned author, are so amenable to having their heads chopped off. This is a gaffe I have even heard uttered on the BBC but, I am sure, something that that organisation's English language department will have corrected the errant presenter over. However there are not many of us have the support of an in-house corrections unit. As such, if we cannot rely upon well meaning friends and associates to help us better ourselves, must we go through life a laughing stock?

Then again there is a rule on here to use English carefully in the manner in which it was intended to be used. To flout this rule is to see one's posts removed. If I were unknowingly guilty of a fault that might endanger continuation of any comment, would it not be better to receive direction that would enable me to avoid such misconduct?

I agree that delivery can turn advice into criticism and criticism can be used to cut to the quick but surely, on here, there is no-one who would knowingly mean harm? I am not so certain of my abilities as to believe myself above error; nor so afeared of my incompetence as to dread betterment that I need a critic to jump to my defence.

So, yes, critics should think twice before they decide to criticise.


Last edited by Foxcliffe on Thu Jun 11, 2015 12:16 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : I am sorry I misread/misinterpreted the criticism of critics to be that of the original post - ooops, sorry.)
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Jun 11, 2015 12:06 pm

"It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman despise him."

George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Thu Jun 11, 2015 2:58 pm

I think my point was that some folk are quite happy to forgive their own errors of accuracy, but may not be quite so tolerant of other people's (different) mistakes.

 If something is right, it's right. If we start to suggest that errors don't matter , where does it end?

And I would feel the same , even if I had received an education...  Embarassed
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Foxcliffe on Thu Jun 11, 2015 4:04 pm

Phil Hornby wrote:if I had received an education...
Life is an education Phil, and a marvellous teacher. Einstein was dyslexic, showed little in the way of scholastic abilities, leaving school at 15 with no diploma. It was only later he grew to become one of the greatest theoretical physicists of all time. There are many examples of wealthy or famous or self educated people who have achieved much from a poor beginning. Exams are, by no means, the be-all and end-all of qualifications.

I agree that there are those quite happy to absolve themselves of deeds and actions they will not tolerate in other's. That is their loss; their failing but it doesn't stop me using their mistakes to improve myself. Right up until his death, having left school with nothing more than his school certificate, my father never stopped learning. He went on to become a teacher through an OU distance learning course. Then was in the middle of studying for his doctorate in Ancient Greek when he died and should have been taking his very first computer class that same day. I'll never match him but that doesn't stop me trying Wink

Errors do happen but if we go through life making no attempt to correct them we will never progress and the world will remain flat.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Phil Hornby on Thu Jun 11, 2015 5:55 pm

Well, that's taught me a lesson...     Smile
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Foxcliffe on Thu Jun 11, 2015 6:16 pm

There you go you see. It's never too late to learn Laughing

But, seriously, we all have to go to school at a certain age and remain there for a set period whether we are ready, then, to make the most of it or not. I hate the idea that someone leaving with nothing will never amount to nothing. We all have something to offer and deserve the confidence to stretch what we have been given.
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:52 pm



'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Foxcliffe on Sat Jun 13, 2015 9:07 am

That'll be a thesaurus on Alice's Christmas list then, eh Smile
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by oftenwrong on Sat Jun 13, 2015 12:55 pm

A Thesaurus of course, and possibly Otto Jespersen's Modern English Grammar with which a pedant can be stopped dead in their tracks if need be.

More fun than sex, one might say, though that's for others to judge.

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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

Post by Foxcliffe on Sat Jun 13, 2015 1:50 pm

oftenwrong wrote:and possibly ... Modern English Grammar
would that I had been allowed to make good the error of my ways Wink
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Re: Apostrophes – do they matter?

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