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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Monday, May 31, 2010

Apostrophe

It’s time. I’ve been waiting for the right moment. The right moment being one in which some person, having recently broken this rule in my presence, won’t know that I’m writing this blog post about them, pointing directly at them, holding them up to ridicule in front of our vast readership. I’ve needed to wait until it had been at least a week since one of my correspondents made the error.

It took a long, long time. This rule gets broken all the time. Smart, literate, articulate people make this very common error. And it makes me cringe. I’m really sorry to tell you this. I’d like it so much better if I didn’t care quite so much. I’d love to be able to just let it go; after all, it’s not as if it were a big, important issue that really, really matters. It’s not as if it had any bearing on world peace or climate change or the elimination of poverty. It’s really quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Measured by almost any measure one can imagine, it’s very small. One would think that its impact on me ought not to be so very great. Judged by its size, this is indeed a tiny indiscretion, miniscule. I realize that the problem is entirely my own. My discomfort is way overblown in the face of its actual occupation of space, physical or emotional. And yet it’s there!

The rule, dear friends, is this: an apostrophe has two uses. It shows possession (with nouns: Jacob’s ladder, Victoria’s secret) or it denotes missing letters (contractions: don’t scream, I’ve had enough). Possession is never denoted by an apostrophe for any pronoun. Most English speakers/writers don’t have a problem with this except with the tiny little word it! But the rule works there too.

So, whenever I mean to shorten up “it is” I use an apostrophe and I get “it’s” which, being interpreted means “it is.” If I want to indicate possession, something belonging to or attributed to “it” I must remember that “it” is a pronoun and never, never use an apostrophe, but just write it plain, simply “its.”

You can check to see if I’ve followed my own rule by going back over this posting (if you’re still reading; I realize this is deadly dull except to other grammarians). Whenever you see an apostrophe, check the accuracy by inserting the missing letter and reading “it is.” Otherwise there should not be an apostrophe there.

There, I’ve got it out of my system. People will still get it wrong, and I’ll still cringe, but at least I’ve told you. Have a nice day. And bless you for loving me anyway.

Posted by Marion

7 comments:

  1. Marion- I am sure this blog was written for me...I KNOW I misuse the apostrophe...I try to catch myself and still make errors...sorry..M

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  2. Ah dear M (anonymous)
    It's not any more about you than the 50 other people who have made that very same error 100 times in the past couple of weeks. Really!

    It's about ME! Don't you see? I do not want to staunch the lovely flow of comments that are coming along to enrich us all.

    Perhaps you missed the Label for this post: "tolerance." I am trying to learn the lesson of what matters most myself and not being so very judgemental. Can I take off my grammar-teacher's hat (see there? "teacher" is a noun, so the possessive apostrophe is correct) and just enjoy the exchange?

    I'm hoping some of you will be able to read this metaphorically. Then my posting will indeed have done its job. ("job" attributed to the pronoun "it" therefore no apostrophe.)

    No, it's not about you; it's about me!
    There, that's the end of my confession. Now back to more important matters. I'll try not to mention it again.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I beg to differ Anonymous.
    This blog post was almost definitely, entirely for the author's own personal benefit.
    I hope she feels better.
    As for me, I'll move on shameless making pesky grammatical errors in four languages.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You are so brave, Marion, to write something so near and dear to your grammatical heart !! Now would you do an article for me on the proper use of there, they're and their, seen and saw ?...and the list goes on... makes my jaw ache when not properly used ! Just me - just like you ! Oh well, what matters most today is the gentle breeze blowing my laundry on the line !!

    ReplyDelete
  5. It seems we're not alone. Check out my friend over at A Wee Blether:

    http://adamjcopeland.com/2010/05/31/some-language-changes-literally-killing-me/

    ReplyDelete
  6. Its a good thing you alerted me to this. While its probably been a while since I've made this mistake myslef from time to time it's tendency to trip me up has been something of a frustration. Its not like I don't try, or don't care, but its just not something I easily spot.

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  7. Alright, now you're just mocking me...

    ReplyDelete