Wednesday, June 4, 2014


My title this week and the following paragraph are from the May 12th issue of the Christian Science Monitor.

“If any place should set the standard for good grammar, it ought to be the English city of Cambridge, where the university’s venerable stone walls preserve centuries of the world’s highest learning. So, when the public caught wind of a little-noticed rule passed by the Cambridge City Council to drop apostrophes from future street signs... the pedants took to the streets, some literally.”

The Council’s rule dropped apostrophes from street signs “for more effective public service,” but was bombarded with so many questions, accusations, and, especially e-mails, that they eventually retreated. Their reasoning, however, makes sense. In a world of texts and 140 character “tweets,” where punctuation can be misread by computers, but especially on street signs, apostrophes seem out of date and unnecessary.

The well-known bookstore, Waterstones, dropped their apostrophe in 2012 and was also criticized. “If you can’t get your own language right...” said some, “it’s a slippery slope.” Others felt Cambridge has “a reputation to maintain.”

Whatever happens across the pond in the future, my quarrel is not with writers dropping apostrophes, but with their increasing them incorrectly. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see plural words with apostrophes that don’t belong there. If you want to turn the singular word “writer,” into the plural, “writers,” you don’t spell it “writer’s.” It was merely laughable when a grocery store sign read, “Apple’s For Sale.” Now, so-called literary types are dropping them into words like confetti at a party.

No, no, no, my fellow authors. Plurals get no apostrophe. Save your strength and your printer ink by remembering that grammar rule. Unless you want to turn the word into a possessive, such as, “The doctor’s bill arrived,” (the bill of the doctor), no apostrophe is needed to make “doctor” plural. “The doctors (not doctor’s) arrived at the site.”

In 1890, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names removed apostrophes from signs here, but where is the outcry against adding unnecessary and incorrect apostrophes to the rest of our written language? Am I the only person who notices and cringes?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak to me! I'm listening!