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Archive for August 10th, 2011

Please, please, please can we get the apostrophes out of our plurals?!

I just saw it AGAIN, the incorrect use of an apostrophe with a word that simply wants to be plural. The biggest irony is that it was in the first line of a blog post about the importance of creating a quality book.

I’m not sure where this crazy concept originated or why it seems to have taken such a strong and endless hold in the writing of seemingly intelligent people, folks who certainly should know better. The thing that most bothers and perplexes me is the sheer randomness of it, as the people who make this error don’t do it every time.

Here’s a sample sentence:

There are many ways for author’s
and speakers to market themselves.

Why would we throw a random apostrophe in with the authors, but leave the speakers alone? If we’re going to make this nonsensical mistake, shouldn’t we at least be consistent about it?

Let’s take a look at the correct use of apostrophes, in a perhaps vain attempt to curb some of the inappropriate usage.

SINGULAR POSSESSIVE

___________________

 PLURAL POSSESSIVE

____________________

 CONTRACTIONS

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             SPELLING OUT TIME

____________________

 OK, against my better judgment, I’m going to mention the only caveats
I am aware of for using apostrophes to create plurals.

EXCEEDINGLY RARE EXCEPTIONS FOR PLURALS

That’s it. There are NO apostrophes in:

  • the simple plural form of an ordinary word like authors
  • an abbreviation like CDs or MP3s
  • a decade like the 1980s
  • the possessive words its, hers, his, yours, theirs, and ours

This is basic grammar that we all should have mastered by the sixth grade, yet it’s one of the most pervasive mistakes to have crept into mainstream usage over the last few years. It’s also the one that makes a writer look sloppier (or more uneducated) than almost any other error. Random Capital Letters are another one, but even they are not as glaring as this inappropriate addition of apostrophes to plural words.

When possible, have someone read over any writing you will publish for public consumption. When that’s not possible, just keep in mind that apostrophes have a few very specific jobs; creating plurals of words is not one of them.

Here’s to happy, effortless, and correct writing!

Laura

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