Thursday, May 31, 2012 there anyone left who knows how to use an apostrophe correctly?!

I don't get too bent out of shape when people misspell, punctuate poorly, or use the wrong word, as long as it's in their personal communication. It pains me a little, because I like the precision and beauty of language, but not everyone has a facility for it, and they are not putting the mistakes out there in a public forum.

But in professional communications perfection should be the goal, and I am flabbergasted that people and businesses pay to print and distribute materials--not to mention display signs--that contain glaring errors. Is there really no one along this continuum--the writer, the manager, the owner, the printer--who can recognize that something is incorrect?

I was following a truck recently that advertised the services of its owner, a landscaper. Along with mowing, edging, and laying sod, there was 'prunning.' I'm sure this custom sign wasn't cheap--it was large and looked well made--and yet, obviously, at no point did anyone see this simple misspelling. Even if the owner couldn't spell, wouldn't you assume he'd ask someone to proofread before he spent hundreds of dollars on a sign that was his face to the public, so to speak? Or that there would be someone at this sign-making enterprise that would double-check for accuracy before they committed the goof-up to posterity or had to haggle over redoing it?

But it is the misuse of apostrophes (particularly, when they denote possession) that is starting to make me crazy, not just because it's ubiquitous, but because their proper usage isn't all that difficult to comprehend.

Menus are the worst offenders. Oyster's, martini's, and entree's, for instance. This leaves me wondering. Which oyster? Which martini's what? Olive, onion? And while menus represent less of an investment than a huge roadside sign, consider this one in my town: 'Cap't Bill's Backyard Barbecue' which is 'catered by the Musser's.' The apostrophe is used correctly after 'Bill,' because the backyard barbecue belongs to him. But what or who is 'the Musser'? And catered by the Musser's what??

Aaaarrgh...! It's really not that hard. If something belongs to something or someone, you indicate that with an apostrophe: the dragonfly's wing, Mr. Pettifogger's hat, the owner's name, Peggy's pet peeve.

If it's simply a plural, then leave it alone! Martinis, lunch specials, entrees, the Mussers. For you eating establishments out there, "Wednesday's special" is correct, but "Beer special's on Wednesday's" is not.

Okay, I feel better now and am ready to move on. I think I have a couple of shrubs I need to prun.


  1. Hey Peggy, Were you my 9th grade English teacher? You are just like her! The Little Brown Book generally keeps me out of trouble.
    Denny Powers

    1. The very fact that you make an effort to be correct shows that she probably made a strong impression on you. I'll take that as a compliment!

    2. Or, should I say, in misguided solidarity with all the people who make this mistake--I'll take that as a complement....

  2. This is really quite sad. As you stated, I don't really care what people do on Facebook, etc. But when your... JK! When you're advertising you're... JK! Your business, you don't make sure your signage, menus, ads, etc. are grammatically correct? Here is the one that always makes me laugh: Our company is CBS Mechanical Services. Somewhere; once, like 8 years ago, printed it "CBS Mechancial Services" in the online ad (which I had proofed, yet they changed after my proofing for one reason or another). I caught it immediately, it couldn't have been up for more than a day or two. Because of this, however, our account with them was listed under this incorrect name. Until this DAY, when I get solicitations/samples from companies looking to sell us personalized pens, keychains, calendars, frisbees, etc.; they send me a sample that says, "CBS Mechancial Services" because they pull that info from our account with Now, if you can't bother to check the spelling before you spend YOUR money to send me a sample to solicit MY business, why would you think I'm going to have the confidence in your company to spend any money with you????

  3. Kristen, yes, you'd think they would have more concern for things that might affect their finanical bottom line, wouldn't you? Haha! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. meant to set _finanical_ off, in case my bad joke wasn't evident....

  5. I once responded to a craigslist ad where the poster didn't use any capitalization or punction at all and many words were spelled wrong. I sent a note to her addressing my belief that if she was trying to sell something she should pay attention to proper grammar and punctuation. She wrote back, and I paraphrase: " im not in school anymore so i dont have to worry about that stuff"

    How do you respond to that?

  6. There are lots of appropriate responses but none, I imagine, that would make any impression on her. The saddest thing is that, too many times, it doesn't even matter _in_ school, anymore!