Monday, June 10, 2013

Beware, Apostrophates!

Bing wouldn't tell me where this originated, so if you're the original owner, thank you!
Yesterday the preacher began his sermon saying he was going to talk about apostasy. Well, that perked my ears right up, and I had a internal snit-fit in which I said things to myself such as "Finally! Someone is going to straighten out our terrible punctuation habits once and for all!" and "I hope he really comes down hard on the difference between the possessive 'its' and the contraction 'it's," before I realize he was not referring to apostrophes and concluded my snit-fit with a Miss Emily Litella moment:

Apostasy, as I now know because I listened to the sermon, refers to the abandonment of a religious or political belief. An apostrophe, of course, is the punctuation mark we use upon the abandonment of COMMON SENSE AND REASON.

Ahem. I'm so sorry. I may be more Rosanne Rosannadanna than Emily Litella. (Although was Gilda Radner the funniest person, perhaps ever?)

But it annoys me beyond reason when I see apostrophes misused when they are perhaps the easiest of punctuation marks to use, or at least among the three easiest, and many grown-up intelligent human beings act as if they're splitting the atom when they have to decide whether to use one.

Are you one of those people? Okay, then, here are two easy rules for apostrophes, and if you always apply them you will be right most of the time.
  1. Are you making two words into one word? Put an apostrophe in the space you are leaving out the spare letters before you slam the two parts together. It is=It's. She is=She's. They are=They're. Will not=Won't (which admittedly is slightly more complicated, but you get the idea).
  2. Can you replace the apostrophe you want to use with the word "of"? Go ahead and throw it in. Carol's Volkswagen=the Volkswagen of Carol. Sheila's questionnaire=the questionnaire of Sheila. Frank's mustard=the mustard of Frank. (Except for the possessive its, which is a special snowflake. Memorize this: The possessive 'its' does NOT have an apostrophe.)
That's it. Those are the only two questions you need to ask. There will be occasional exceptions to these rules, but not enough that you won't look fairly competent in using apostrophes. You will not make hysteria-inducing mistakes such as INDICATING A PLURAL BY INSERTING AN APOSTROPHE.

I'm so sorry for shouting, again, but heavenly days, people, what have we come to?

And thank you!
Two words into one? Open of Sunday? I think not! Out, errant apostrophe! Or this:

And also thank you!
Two words into one? Greek of cheese? Nope and nope.

I have more than half-seriously proposed a tax on apostrophes, so that we would stop flinging them around with such wild abandon. So far it has not been adopted by our state legislature, but I bet if we had to pay a surcharge on each one (say a dollar a pop?) we'd think twice before throwing one in a word just for ornamentation. Also it could completely solve the state's budget issues.

Until that happens, I will leave searching for apostasy and apostates to persons holier than I. I'm going after apostrophes and apostrophates.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, yes, Sarah! I am with you 100 percent. Those extra apostrophes annoy me to pieces!