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Grammar Stage Parent

Why is the misuse of apostrophes so common?

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I don't mean to put anyone on the spot here, but I am at a loss as to why so many people improperly use apostrophes. Our daughter is struggling with them, and her constantly receiving e-mails from educated adults that read, for example, "Its beautiful outside" and "Did you receive lots of presents' ?" doesn't help.

 

I realize that some don't bother with them when they are texting, but the improper use of the apostrophe was evident long before that practice was common.

 

In the early 90s, I read a biography with samples of correspondence, and the subject's his ignorance of apostrophes underscored his lack of adequate schooling, ie. "you think your smart but your not". Today, this lack of understanding seems to extend to all education levels.

 

Why do so many people have problems with apostrophes? Does anyone know of a grammar text that gives strong emphasis to their proper use?

 

_____________________________________________________________

 

Daughter: 9; Singapore Primary Mathematics 3B; Story of the World Level 2; Writing Strands 3; Spelling Workout Level C; Science experiment books recommended in WTM; WWE3

 

Son: 6: First Language Lessons Level 2; Singapore Primary Mathematics 1B; general handwriting practice and reading practice; SOTW 1; WWE 1; Science experiment books recommended in WTM

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Let's assume that all children are taught the rules for apostrophes, and let's assume that all teachers use apostrophes correctly.

 

Even in this best case scenario, when you read your local newspaper, read signs as you drive or walk around town, and read your email, you will see many incorrect uses of the apostrophe.

 

The epidemic incorrect use of the apostrophe sabotages our understanding of the correct use of the apostrophe, and promotes even more incorrect usage.

 

Our local food co-op sells:

 

Potatoes'

Tomatoes'

and Onions'.

 

I was too timid to comment on the signs to the very kind manager (who is a college graduate).

 

I have found apostrophe errors in Kaplan ACT study manuals and in the highly esteemed Penguin Books, as well. In these cases, I think the source of error is overreliance on spell check, rather than on real live proofreaders.

 

Sometimes I think we'd be better off without the apostrophe altogether; the apostrophe seems to convey less meaning and innuendo than the comma, for example.

 

Please don't send any rotten tomatoes' my way!

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I don't mean to put anyone on the spot here, but I am at a loss as to why so many people improperly use apostrophes. Our daughter is struggling with them, and her constantly receiving e-mails from educated adults that read, for example, "Its beautiful outside" and "Did you receive lots of presents' ?" doesn't help.

 

I realize that some don't bother with them when they are texting, but the improper use of the apostrophe was evident long before that practice was common.

 

In the early 90s, I read a biography with samples of correspondence, and the subject's his ignorance of apostrophes underscored his lack of adequate schooling, ie. "you think your smart but your not". Today, this lack of understanding seems to extend to all education levels.

 

Why do so many people have problems with apostrophes? Does anyone know of a grammar text that gives strong emphasis to their proper use?

 

_____________________________________________________________

 

I guess I don't notice it too much, but that's because it's a weak point with me (I probably wouldn't notice an error). I do know that for myself, personally, I often have to take a second and think about it....such as for its/it's, your/you're. If I write, "It's raining outside"....I might have to quickly think "it is raining.....yep, makes sense", so then I know it has the apostrophe. If I wrote "Let's drive in your car" I'd think, "you are car? Nope." And, actually in that sentence I might quickly think....."let us....so then I know it has the apostrophe (I am quite sure it wouldn't be "lettuce"....heehee). I'm 42 and still have to think it through. I've never been very good with other apostrophes....like for possessives and such. I'm sure I make many errors in that regard. I guess I better brush up on those rules myself so I can properly teach my kids (see.....is it kids, kids' or kid's? I don't really know unless I'd look it up and I'm too tired right now. :001_smile:).

 

In reading your post, I was paying attention to your apostrophe usage, since that was what you were posting about. I wondered if it should have been "90's"? Also.....you typed "subject's". It could be correct.....but I bet I would have typed it as "subjects" (and like I said above, I'd probably be wrong). But, then again......I didn't really understand that entire sentence you wrote. LOL! :lol:

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>In reading your post, I was paying attention to your apostrophe usage, since that >was what you were posting about. I wondered if it should have been "90's"? >Also.....you typed "subject's". It could be correct.....but I bet I would have typed >it as "subjects" (and like I said above, I'd probably be wrong). But, then >again......I didn't really understand that entire sentence you wrote. LOL!

 

Thanks for calling me for failing to do what I've been criticizing others for. The word "subject's" was something I had intended to omit. I'm as guilty as anyone for faulty proofreading, but my concern for this post was that misplaced and absent apostrophes are passing otherwise ruthless proofreading, because a lot seem not to know how they are used properly.

 

I confirmed with a professional editor what I had learned years ago: "90s", not "90's", is the correct spelling. The apostrophe there serves no purpose that the plural "s" cannot provide. Writing "90s" is no different in substance than "books", as in "I have two books" and "We visited several times in the 90s" (ie. in 1993, 1997, etc.) .

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I know the rules, so when in doubt, if it doesn't come automatically - most of the time it is automatic, but I can't erase the fact that English is not my native language - I quickly think through what I'm trying to say.

 

Somebody on these boards (whoever you are, forgive me for not being able to recall the nickname right now :)) has a signature about kittens dying every time somebody uses an apostrophe to pluralize, and if you click it (I did), you will see a wallpaper with the summary of the rules. I recommend it.

 

For some crazy reason, Italian children tend to misuse the apostrophes in Italian too. I cringe any time when I see qual'è instead of qual è, that's my pet peeve and I see it all the time (and often also un'amico instead of un amico, and then the opposite phenomenon too in cases when there should be elision, and they don't put it...), even in newspapers and in semi-official usage. I wonder whether those people were never explained the difference between troncamento and elisione, or it's, like most spelling problems, the issue of "the practice of literacy", i.e. how much one reads and writes. That's the only explanation I can think of.

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Poor or completely lacking grammar instruction. These issues were not always so bad but a few decades ago the educational establishment decided that it was a terrible thing to drill a child in basic math facts and grammar rules. As a result, now, even the educated show a profound lack of knowledge in this area. It is pervasive but that doesn't stop me from trying to stem the tide with my trusty Rod and Staff English books!

 

Ester - That is Mrs. Mungo. Her signature reads, "Every time you use an apostrophe to pluralize, a kitten dies." Now when I look over my kids' shoulders and see this mistake I say dramatically, "The kittens are dying! The kittens are dying!

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Likely because its virtually inconsequential and RARELY if ever affects understanding or meaning.

 

I beg to differ. I might be able to figure out the meaning, but very often the meaning is changed by the misuse of an apostrophe. Not that I am perfect at it by any means, and I often have to think about it, but it is still important and most certainly affects meaning. I know that many will disagree though and of course that's fine.

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>In reading your post, I was paying attention to your apostrophe usage, since that >was what you were posting about. I wondered if it should have been "90's"? >Also.....you typed "subject's". It could be correct.....but I bet I would have typed >it as "subjects" (and like I said above, I'd probably be wrong). But, then >again......I didn't really understand that entire sentence you wrote. LOL!

 

Thanks for calling me for failing to do what I've been criticizing others for. The word "subject's" was something I had intended to omit. I'm as guilty as anyone for faulty proofreading, but my concern for this post was that misplaced and absent apostrophes are passing otherwise ruthless proofreading, because a lot seem not to know how they are used properly.

 

I confirmed with a professional editor what I had learned years ago: "90s", not "90's", is the correct spelling. The apostrophe there serves no purpose that the plural "s" cannot provide. Writing "90s" is no different in substance than "books", as in "I have two books" and "We visited several times in the 90s" (ie. in 1993, 1997, etc.) .

 

Nearly every book I've ever read, no matter how ruthlessly edited, has had a typo. I'm often surprised by the fact that I found it, but a team of professional editors missed it?

 

That said, I can't tell you how many tiimes I've written, edited, and published MY OWN stuff with misplaced apostrophes and worse grammatical offences. When I go back and read some of my stuff I want to crawl under a rock.

 

I don't micro-edit my forum posts (try to be much more careful with blog posts) and don't expect to have them critiqued, but I do understand where you're coming from regarding professionally published pieces.

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Nearly every book I've ever read, no matter how ruthlessly edited, has had a typo. I'm often surprised by the fact that I found it, but a team of professional editors missed it?

 

 

 

One of the presidents (maybe Eisenhower? I can't remember) was writing a book. He declared that his book would have NO typos. It was proofread by double the normal number of people, and he personally proofread it. There was a typo in the first chapter, I believe (it's been a long time since I read this anecdote).

 

I have worked as an editor/proofreader and when I did my MA thesis, I proofread it multiple times. My advisor had read it at least once. And when my father was reading my copy after it had already been turned in, he found a typo. And he's not even a good editor LOL!

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I don't know. It makes me crazy. :glare:

 

Most apostrophe errors are inexcuseable. Some grammar things are tricky, like using a possessive pronoun with a gerund, but apostrophes? Please. Just add -s or -es. That is all.

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I guess I don't notice it too much, but that's because it's a weak point with me (I probably wouldn't notice an error). I do know that for myself, personally, I often have to take a second and think about it....such as for its/it's, your/you're. If I write, "It's raining outside"....I might have to quickly think "it is raining.....yep, makes sense", so then I know it has the apostrophe. If I wrote "Let's drive in your car" I'd think, "you are car? Nope." And, actually in that sentence I might quickly think....."let us....so then I know it has the apostrophe (I am quite sure it wouldn't be "lettuce"....heehee). I'm 42 and still have to think it through. I've never been very good with other apostrophes....like for possessives and such. I'm sure I make many errors in that regard. I guess I better brush up on those rules myself so I can properly teach my kids (see.....is it kids, kids' or kid's? I don't really know unless I'd look it up and I'm too tired right now. :001_smile:).

 

In reading your post, I was paying attention to your apostrophe usage, since that was what you were posting about. I wondered if it should have been "90's"? Also.....you typed "subject's". It could be correct.....but I bet I would have typed it as "subjects" (and like I said above, I'd probably be wrong). But, then again......I didn't really understand that entire sentence you wrote. LOL! :lol:

 

:lol::lol::lol: I could have written this entire post! Too funny! :D

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Does anyone know of a grammar text that gives strong emphasis to their proper use?

 

_____________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Rod and Staff:D

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I for one DO NOT have problems with apostrophes, except for an occasional typo when my fingers are flying faster than my brain. It drives me positively mad when other people seem to think that they are correct. It is just another thing in the list of many that people in the recent generation were not taught. (WHERE WAS JESSIE WISE WHEN WE NEEDED HER?! oh yeah, she was teaching Susan.)

 

My mom was an English teacher and filled in all the grammar gaps that the teachers were leaving out. She taught me how to THINK about which forms of words to use. These days, I don't think that people are taught those things. I saw someone post, "My sister and I's adventure in...." Good grief. Try "My sister's and my adventure in..." There, I feel better now.

 

Oh, and since I've totally hijacked your post and begun ranting about how other people slaughter the English language, I'd just like to mention that, like Mrs. Mungo's sig line, a puppy dog dies every time someone misspells the word DEFINITELY WITH AN A (as in definately) arrrrrrrrrrghh! :banghead:

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I second Rod & Staff!

 

My only question is a name ending in an "s" when it is possesive. I think Rod and Staff says, for example, that it should be Nicholas's. Is that right? NOBODY does this, but I ALWAYS see it as Nicholas'. I think Rod and Staff says it is that way only if it is someone like Jesus or Moses. So "Jesus' parables" IS correct.

 

 

Kimm

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Ellie, when you talk about using a possessive with a gerund, do you mean something like, "Do you mind my asking a question?" instead of, "Do you mind me asking a question?"

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First, because incorrectly used apostrophes are so ubiquitous that they no longer 'look wrong' to many people. Secondly, because we are seeing the results of an educational fad where teachers were discouraged from correcting spelling and punctuation lest the children be discouraged from writing. So people have gone through 10 to 20 years of formal education without (or very rarely) being corrected, and then seen the same errors on signs and official correspondence everywhere.

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Sometimes this issue makes me want to give up on Facebook.

 

My news feed yesterday looked like this:

 

I got so many nice present's for Mothers Day.

 

I have the best kid's in the world!

 

To all the mom's on Facebook, have a great day!

 

 

I just don't get it! It's more work to put the apostrophe there than to leave it out, so why does this happen so often? My four year old just learned about apostrophes recently and today she wrote "day's". She's four. It's excusable. But from college graduates? I don't get it.

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Nearly every book I've ever read, no matter how ruthlessly edited, has had a typo. I'm often surprised by the fact that I found it, but a team of professional editors missed it?

 

One of the presidents (maybe Eisenhower? I can't remember) was writing a book. He declared that his book would have NO typos. It was proofread by double the normal number of people, and he personally proofread it. There was a typo in the first chapter, I believe (it's been a long time since I read this anecdote).

 

I have worked as an editor/proofreader and when I did my MA thesis, I proofread it multiple times. My advisor had read it at least once. And when my father was reading my copy after it had already been turned in, he found a typo. And he's not even a good editor LOL!

I used to be a writer and editor and did a lot of proofreading as well. One of the reasons a typo sometimes slips through is because the brain often reads words as it assumes they should be spelled rather than as they are spelled. So if you're reading a sentence and you anticipate the words that are coming next, you'll "hear" them in your head the way they should be spelled and you can miss the typo. A good proofreading tip is to try reading each paragraph backwards, word by word, so you don't anticipate the word that comes next.

 

Another common cause of typos is last-minute revisions, where new typos get introduced when someone is typing (or typesetting, in the old days) something late at night because there was a bit of last-minute copy editing ~ after 3 proofreaders had already gone through the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb ~ so it only gets a cursory look-over as it's being rushed to the printer and the typo is missed.

 

Jackie

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I confirmed with a professional editor what I had learned years ago: "90s", not "90's", is the correct spelling. The apostrophe there serves no purpose that the plural "s" cannot provide. Writing "90s" is no different in substance than "books", as in "I have two books" and "We visited several times in the 90s" (ie. in 1993, 1997, etc.) .

This is one area of usage that is still controversial. A few decades ago many textbooks, such as the ones I used in middle school, still used the apostrophe to refer to a decade, but it is more common now not to use an apostrophe. Jack Lynch's Guide to Grammar and Style says the following:

 

Using an apostrophe to refer to a decade — the 1960's versus the 1960s — is another matter of house style; again, journalists tend to use the apostrophe, and most other publishers don't.

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I second Rod & Staff!

 

My only question is a name ending in an "s" when it is possesive. I think Rod and Staff says, for example, that it should be Nicholas's. Is that right? NOBODY does this, but I ALWAYS see it as Nicholas'. I think Rod and Staff says it is that way only if it is someone like Jesus or Moses. So "Jesus' parables" IS correct.

 

 

Kimm

 

I see singular words ending in s written as s' and s's. I'm not sure which is right. I always though it was s'. My dh's name is Kris so I'm never sure if I should write Kris' or Kris's. I read once that Jesus and Moses don't need an apostrophe.

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Ester - That is Mrs. Mungo. Her signature reads, "Every time you use an apostrophe to pluralize, a kitten dies."

 

As soon as I saw the title of this thread this is exactly what came to mind!

 

Now when I look over my kids' shoulders and see this mistake I say dramatically, "The kittens are dying! The kittens are dying!

 

:lol::lol::lol: May need to borrow this!

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This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. We have a business. My husband has actually ordered signs and banners made that have come back incorrect. His employees constantly write out things with apostrophes to pluralize. It DRIVES ME NUTS.

 

Ok, I got that off my chest. I will say, I rarely spell check my posts because I think of this as "chatting." When I chat with a friend, I may use incorrect English. When I put it down on paper, I am careful about sentence structure, run-ons, and spelling. But on here, I see lots of errors when I go back and read my own posts. Sorry about that. I am sure I drive someone else nuts with that!

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On the names that end in 's' I always learned to add an apostrophe at the end with no additional s. So it would be Jesus' disciples. But I see it in books all the time as the Jones's neighbors. That drives me crazy, because I have already taught my 7 yr old the correct way, so she questions me about this. I have already told her that many adults do not understand the correct usage, and that doesn't mean that we shouldn't do it right.

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Ellie, when you talk about using a possessive with a gerund, do you mean something like, "Do you mind my asking a question?" instead of, "Do you mind me asking a question?"

YES!!! Well done!

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Ester - That is Mrs. Mungo. Her signature reads, "Every time you use an apostrophe to pluralize, a kitten dies."

 

Her signature line has done more to help me with proper apostrophe usage than all the instruction I had in school.

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On the names that end in 's' I always learned to add an apostrophe at the end with no additional s. So it would be Jesus' disciples. But I see it in books all the time as the Jones's neighbors. That drives me crazy, because I have already taught my 7 yr old the correct way, so she questions me about this. I have already told her that many adults do not understand the correct usage, and that doesn't mean that we shouldn't do it right.

Actually, "the Jones's neighbors" is correct usage. Rule #1 in Strunk & White's Elements of Style says:

Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's. Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

Charles's friend

Burns's poem

the witch's malice

Exceptions are the possessives of ancient proper names ending in -es and -is, the possessive Jesus', and such forms as for conscience' sake, for righteousness' sake.

 

Many publishers however, do not follow this rule, and simply add ' without the s to nouns and names ending in s. I certainly wouldn't tell my kids that people who follow Strunk & White are doing it wrong, though. :)

 

Jackie

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See.. I was taught differently in school. And we haven't gotten there yet in our grammar. So I may be telling her wrong based on my misinformation. I see it both ways, and I was taught one. Maybe the wrong one?? Interesting.

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I see singular words ending in s written as s' and s's. I'm not sure which is right. I always though it was s'. My dh's name is Kris so I'm never sure if I should write Kris' or Kris's. I read once that Jesus and Moses don't need an apostrophe.

 

 

I learned in school (third grade, I believe) that Jones's is correct, but that some people will view Jones' as acceptable.

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We use Rod and Staff. After rereading this post, it looks like I am going to have a big foot in mouth moment w/dd when we get to this in the book! Thanks for posting everyone.

 

I promise though I have never done the plural apostrophe!:tongue_smilie:

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I just had to add my own rant in here because improper usage is my pet peeve....the public school here put on a big event that they were calling Literacy Night. Great idea, right? Except that the advertisement read "Your invited to Literacy Night".

 

 

Aurrrggghhhh!!!!!

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I'm starting to wonder if the death blow to the apostrophe is the World Wide Web. Companies with a possessive in their name (ie. Joe's Diner) lose the apostrophe when they create their domain name (ie. joesdiner.com) ...

 

It's interesting that many are referring to *The Elements of Style* for the rules of the possessive apostrophe. The origin of this post was my encountering (in my view) a grotesquely unfair review of that classic, a review which contained an improperly used "it's". I wrote the person responsible for it, suggesting that he spend his time proofreading his own work instead of writing irresponsible reviews of grammar guides. (Really, he deserved it; he wrote a savage review.) He wrote back and asked me what mistake he had made!

 

Again, the nature of electronic communications seems to encourage proofreading neglect, but I find it really disturbing that some seem not to have a clue about proper apostrophe use.

 

Thanks for the Rod and Staff recommendations!

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Many publisher's however, do not follow this rule, and simply add ' without the s to nouns and names ending in s. I certainly wouldn't tell my kids that people who follow Strunk & White are doing it wrong, though. :)

 

Jackie

To be even more precise:

 

Singular: Jones

Adam Jones lives here.

 

Singular possessive: Jones's (according to ABeka's Handbook of Grammar and Composition)

That is Adam Jones's house

 

Plural: Joneses

The Joneses live here.

 

Plural possessive: Joneses'

That is the Joneses' house.

 

The handbook notes that there are certain instances when adding just the apostrophe is proper: ancient proper names ending in -es (Socrates' pupil, Pericles' rule); the name of Jesus; and such expressions as "for conscience' sake."

 

And we could have a moment of humor in noticing that in the above quote, "publisher's" is used instead of "publishers.":lol:

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I hear you.

 

Last night on the news there was a group that was out protesting school district cuts, etc. I was not impressed by their misspelled signs. Although maybe it proves the point that now is not the time for budget "cut's." (Just kidding.)

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And we could have a moment of humor in noticing that in the above quote, "publisher's" is used instead of "publishers.":lol:

Arrrrghhhhhhh!!!!!!!!:lol:

Clearly I need to proofread my posts before (or at least after!) hitting send!

Jackie

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This is one area of usage that is still controversial. A few decades ago many textbooks, such as the ones I used in middle school, still used the apostrophe to refer to a decade, but it is more common now not to use an apostrophe. Jack Lynch's Guide to Grammar and Style says the following:

 

Actually, "the Jones's neighbors" is correct usage. Rule #1 in Strunk & White's Elements of Style says:

 

 

Many publishers however, do not follow this rule, and simply add ' without the s to nouns and names ending in s. I certainly wouldn't tell my kids that people who follow Strunk & White are doing it wrong, though. :)

 

Jackie

 

Yes, there is division in the grammar world on some of these issues. Not everyone agrees. I talk to my kids about some of the issues, I have a definite preference on most of them. They will need to make a note of which style guide their college uses and follow that, even if their dear mother disagrees. :tongue_smilie::lol:

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ubiquitous

 

NICE!!!!:thumbup1:

 

Sometimes this issue makes me want to give up on Facebook.

 

My news feed yesterday looked like this:

 

I got so many nice present's for Mothers Day.

 

I have the best kid's in the world!

 

To all the mom's on Facebook, have a great day!

 

 

I just don't get it! It's more work to put the apostrophe there than to leave it out, so why does this happen so often? My four year old just learned about apostrophes recently and today she wrote "day's". She's four. It's excusable. But from college graduates? I don't get it.

 

Don't get me started on their, there, and they're OR your, you're and yours!!!!:glare: FB is the WORST!!!!

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I just had to add my own rant in here because improper usage is my pet peeve....the public school here put on a big event that they were calling Literacy Night. Great idea, right? Except that the advertisement read "Your invited to Literacy Night".

 

 

Aurrrggghhhh!!!!!

 

:lol:

 

I'm going to break out in hives now.

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I've been thinking about this thread and it occurred to me that some of the misspellings or typos might be due to familiar keystrokes.

 

For example, take the word 'definitely.' I know it is spelled definitely, yet, for some reason, my fingers automatically type 'ately' and I don't always catch it on a proofread.

 

Misplaced apostrophes might be caused by similar habits? Maybe? Not necessarily that one doesn't know the correct rule.

 

Now, in published documents or on signs is another story...

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I've been thinking about this thread and it occurred to me that some of the misspellings or typos might be due to familiar keystrokes.

 

For example, take the word 'definitely.' I know it is spelled definitely, yet, for some reason, my fingers automatically type 'ately' and I don't always catch it on a proofread.

First you have to think in terms of lexical roots, only then in terms of suffixes and whether some changes occur when you put a suffix.

So if you know it's definite+ly, it's easier not to misspell.

Like loud-ly, happy-ly -> happily (one of the examples where you have to be aware of something changing), warm-ly, etc.

 

I don't see how the use of apostrophes would be related though. It just seems that people don't differentiate between 'possessive' and 'plural' relations between words. The 'possessive' (writing in '' because I'm not sure those are the official terms and I'm too lazy to check this early in the morning) ones require an apostrophe, the 'plural' ones DO NOT. There are some "in between cases" (60's vs. 60s - though I personally would write "The 60's fashion" and "In the 60s it was fashionable to wear...", i.e. I'd make a distinction that way, though I'm not sure it's correct), but every time you use an apostrophe to pluralize, a kitten dies. So when in doubt, just DO NOT use it. :D

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One of my Facebook friends is principal of a high school. On his profile he states, "Looking to hear from former students. let me know what your up to."

 

It drives me nuts! I want to send him a private message and tell him to correct it!

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Our our news there was a story about one of our homeschool supplement options, a place where homeschool students can take classes once or twice per week.

On the screen it said "More Parent's Choose Homeschooling".... gee, I wonder why?? :lol:

 

Kimm

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People misuse apostrophes for the same reason people spell 'a lot' as 'alot'

 

They don't know the correct usage/spelling.

 

I don't agree that misuse, bad spelling, and bad grammar seals our fate to always making the same errors. If you're taught it correctly, and it is constantly reinforced in assignments and such, it should stick. That's why I'm ueber picky and strict about it.

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