Grammar Giggle – Gas Pumps and Every Possible Grammar Error

There are so many errors in this one sign I don’t think I could even get through them all. There are apostrophes used to make words plural, not enough periods, words that should be a single word divided into two words, capital letters where there doesn’t need to be or a small letter (if you want to be consistent) where a capital letter should be, misspellings . . . and my brain has now exploded.

Grammar Giggle – Thankyourmamasgiving

Random apostrophes–love them! The only reason a word like this would ever have an apostrophe would be if letters were missing, as in Thank[your mama]sgiving. Otherwise, as in this example, I have no idea why there would be an apostrophe in the middle of this word.

ThanksgivingWednesday

Grammar Giggles – Teachers, Teacher’s, Teachers’

Apparently, according to this news story, only one teacher across the nation is striking. That is because they made the singular word teacher possessive by adding apostrophe “s” rather than making the plural word teachers possessive by just adding an apostrophe. It seems that a strike would be so much more effective if multiple teachers across this great nation were involved.

Teacher's Strike

Grammar Giggle – Presidents Day

Happy Presidents Day! I’m assuming this school was talking about the holiday honoring ALL of the U.S. Presidents and not just one President. Remember, with apostrophes you start with the correct word–in this case, “Presidents” because you’re talking about all the Presidents–and then make it possessive by adding an apostrophe (and an “s” if necessary). NOTE: various sources disagree about whether the apostrophe belongs at all. Since the apostrophe denotes possession and the holiday is to honor U.S. Presidents and not a day that belongs to those Presidents, no apostrophe is probably more correct. In any event, this school sign is obviously incorrect.

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Plurals, Possessives, and Surnames Oh My!

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A reader asked me to address possessives with a proper name.  I mentioned it in an article early on (see Apostrophail!), but we will delve into it here.

The first rule–the most important thing to remember when working with surnames (a person’s last name)–is do not change a person’s name. You can’t add an apostrophe before an “s” when the surname ends in “s.” For instance, do not make the name “Andrews” possessive by putting the apostrophe between the “w” and the “s.” That is changing the spelling of Andrews. A person’s name is the most personal thing they have. Don’t mess that up! So here are some tips for making surnames plural and possessive.

To make most surnames plural, you add an “s.”

  • The Smiths went to the Halloween party dressed as dice.

That means more than one Smith went to the party. Where the surname ends in s, x, ch, sh, or z, you should add es to make the name plural.

  • The Lopezes have been married for 50 years.

However, if adding es makes the name hard to pronounce, just use the s.

  • The Hastings went to the park for a picnic. (In this case Hastingses would be difficult to pronounce, so Hastings is better.)

As for possessives, to make most surnames possessive, add an apostrophe and an “s.”

  • Mr. Smith’s car was repossessed.

For these surnames that are plural and possessive, make them plural by adding an “s” and then add an apostrophe to make them possessive.

  • The Smiths’ car was parked illegally.

Where surnames end in “s,” to make them possessive, pronounce the word. If you say the extra “s,” you add apostrophe and “s.”

  • Shirley Jones’s son flunked algebra.

You would pronounce it “Joneses,” so you add the apostrophe and “s.” Where the surname ends in “s” and making it plural adds an extra syllable that makes it awkward to pronounce, add only the apostrophe.

  • Mr. Andrews’ house was broken into.

You would not pronounce it “Andrewses,” so you only add the apostrophe. Where you are talking about a surname that ends in “s” and you want it plural and possessive, make it plural first and then follow the rules on making it possessive.

  • The Joneses’ house was for sale.

You make Jones plural by adding “es” because it ends in “s,” but adding apostrophe and “s” after that would make it difficult to pronounce (Joneseses) so you just add the apostrophe.

Again, the main thing to remember is not to change the basic spelling of a person’s name. Start with their name spelled correctly, and then figure out how to make it plural and/or possessive.

Hopefully this is helpful. Don’t upset a person by misspelling their name. Possessives and plurals aren’t difficult if you think about the base word you are trying to change.

 

 

Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_10709367_smith-name-in-phone-book.html’>bradcalkins / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Grammar Giggles – Elementary School Yearbook’s

My granddaughter brought her yearbook over to show me this weekend. I started thumbing through it and was unbelievably discouraged at the multiple (as in more than one, more than two, I stopped counting) errors. Even if the school itself didn’t put the yearbook together, it has their name all over it and represents their school, so SOMEONE should have at least looked at it to make sure it was correct. Maybe the sixth graders should have proofread it. My son asked me not to post a link on the PTO’s Facebook page, so I will just use it for Grammar Giggles (or perhaps Grammar Groan is more appropriate). But I couldn’t resist using the page that had my beautiful granddaughter’s picture on it (since I had my choice of every page of sixth graders) even though it showcases my number one grammar pet peeve–apostrophes for plurals!

School yearbook

All ’bout Deletions Using Apostrophes

Apostrophes have uses other than to show possession (see Apostrophail!). The other main use is in a contraction to show where letters are missing. In that case, the apostrophe is placed exactly where the letters are removed and no period is used unless the word is at the end of a sentence.

  • you’re = you areApostrophe
  • don’t = do not
  • he’ll = he will

Do remember to respect a company’s preference when they use an apostrophe in their brand name, i.e., Cap’n Crunch, Dunkin’ Donuts.

There is even a proper format for the apostrophe in a contraction. You should use the single closing quotation mark NOT the single opening quotation mark. When the apostrophe is at the beginning of a word, you will probably get the single opening quotation mark as you type. To remedy that, type both the opening and closing single quotation mark and delete the opening mark. This, of course, isn’t a problem if you use the straight quotation marks, only if you use the curly quotation marks.

Another area of confusion is decades. To correctly type a decade contraction, it is ’80s not 80’s. The apostrophe represents that the “19” is missing from “1980s” and not that the 1980s owned something. Using “80’s” to represent that decade is incorrect.

Remember, however, that in the legal field, contractions are not frequently used. Contractions are used in less formal writing, which doesn’t often happen in a law firm. But if you must use a contraction, please use the apostrophe correctly.

 

Apostrophail!

I think the number one all time grammar fail is the apostrophe.  It is not a punctuation mark for making words plural (more than one of something), it is a mark to show possession (ownership of something) or to show where letters are missing in a contraction (such as “don’t”).  There is an easy test I found to make it a little easier to determine if something needs an apostrophe for possession:

  • Look for the possible possessive phrase:

– the man[‘s] desk
  • Reverse the nouns:

– desk of the man
  • Examine the base ownership word to determine who owns the thing (here “man”).  The most important thing is not to change the spelling of a singular noun just to make it possessive.  For instance, the man (one man) is still the owner of the desk.  Ownership doesn’t magically make the desk belong to more than one man.  It would be the “man’s desk” not the “men’s desk.”
  • Does the base word showing ownership end with an s sound?
  • If it does not end in an s sound, add an apostrophe and s:

– the man’s desk
  • If the ownership word does end in an s sound, you usually add only an apostrophe:

– both boys’ desks

UNLESS you actually hear the s sound when you say it, then you should add an apostrophe and s

– Phoenix’s traffic

– Waitress’s tables

That is a really important “unless” and one that is controversial.  Say it out loud if necessary.  Again, however, while it may be correct under one reference source, the person you are working for may not like it that way.  Do it the way they want it so you can stay employed, but keep fighting the fight and sharing your resources so that hopefully one day they will come over to your way of thinking (or just get tired of listening to you go on and on about it – which is what I think happens in my case more than I’d like to admit).

Proper names are sometimes the most difficult.  I once worked with someone with the last name “Andrews” and actually saw (with my own eyes) how people (and more than one) would try to make it possessive by adding the apostrophe before the s – Andrew’s.  Never, ever change the spelling of someone’s name before you make it plural or possessive.  Start with the name and then do what you need to do to it.  Just remember that is one thing that is sacred to everyone – their own name.

Apostrophes really are not as difficult as they seem to be when you see how often they are used incorrectly.  It is just something that takes thinking about to get right.  Take the time to think about it and you are a step ahead of most people.

I want to take just a minute to thank you all for the terrific response to my first blog posts.  I was really worried about starting this blog because I knew my audience would be at least as crazy about good grammar as I am, so I read, re-read, edited, re-edited, and procrastinated posting because I was worried that I had missed errors and would be publicly called out on it.  I did miss errors, but people were really nice about it, taught me a thing or two I didn’t know, and I was able to correct the errors without public humiliation.  I did tell you I’m not an expert and I’m not.  My hope is that I am able to impart some good tips to help you be just a little bit better.  If that happens, I feel like I have accomplished what I set out to do and actually made a difference – errors and all.