O apostrophe, where art thou?

My Nikkel's Worth column

Okay readers, quick test here: hands up if you can spot the punctuation mistakes in the following sentences:

“Dont you just hate it when people cant seem to get the hang of the humble apostrophe? Every week we see literally 100’s of examples of it’s improper use. Signs’, book’s and even newspapers’ have been known to get it wrong.”

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If you are scratching your head about whether anything is wrong there, you need to refresh your knowledge of grammar.

I bring forth this item about apostrophes because a terrible, awful thing has happened, and people’s eyes will be hurting everywhere: The Apostrophe Protection Society will be disbanding. (Gasp!)

“What on this or any other Earth are you talking about?” you may well ask.

Well, in Britain, a retired journalist, John Richards, founded this society in 2001 with “the specific aim of preserving the correct use of this currently much-abused punctuation mark.”

Writers and English teachers and those who love proper grammar (I think they’re called ‘grammar Nazis’) everywhere would support his lofty aim, and for 18 years he did try.

The problem? He says “The laziness has won”, or to put it another, “the punctuation barbarians have won”, and he is admitting defeat in his defence of the English language.

Did you know there’s actually a website where you can order a T-shirt with a giant apostrophe on it? It’s British, and the shirts sell for 15.99 Pounds or $22.99 US. Mind you, with the Protection Society now disbanding, I don’t know if the shirts will continue to be offered.

One sign that Mr. Richards has had some impact was the reaction on-line. As soon as he made this announcement, the society’s website had a 600-fold increase in traffic, prompting the webmaster to shut the page down with the promise of restarting it in the new year — and, the webmaster has promised to operate the site for a while longer.

Among the victories that Mr. Richards achieved, locally at least, is he managed to convince the local library to correct their sign for CD’s.

Stated briefly, the challenge seems to be the wrong application of the apostrophe, or the absence of one when it’s needed, such as I just did with the word ‘it’s’ (sorry, I used single quotes to confuse the issue …)

When writing a sign or posting something or whatever else, remember that the letter s is used for both possessive and plural forms (and thus, the confusion). For example, you say it’s as a contraction of “it is”. It’s an easy rule (see what I did there?), but so easy to muff up, unless you read it out to see if it makes sense.