This was recently in my Facebook feed and caught my attention. Yes, the children belong to each celebrity, but they belong to eight different celebrities so should have been “8 Celebrities’ Children . . .” to talk about the children of eight celebrities. See the formula here.
This one is from a response received in our office. Not only is the heading misspelled (because they likely have Word’s “ignore words in uppercase” option checked) but there is no apostrophe showing that the objections actually belong to the Defendants. Check your Word settings to make sure yours are set so that Word doesn’t think (incorrectly!) for you. It’s really difficult not to circle the errors with red pen and send them back.
This was in a Notice of Appointment of Arbitrator received in our office from our local Superior Court. Plural = NO apostrophe. Possessive = apostrophe.
I saw this in a Las Vegas shopping area last week while there for the NALS Educational Conference and I was a little confused. Does this store sell Women’s Accessories? Or are they selling accessories to one specific woman making them the Woman’s Accessories (and not selling them to anyone else)? Or are they a new accessory line designed by a person named “Woman”? It was a big sign on the outside of a store to lure you in . . . unless you are as highly disturbed as I am by mistakes that should not be on display in public places in signs that obviously cost a lot of money.
I was wandering through Target the other day and spotted this sign. Because I’m particularly sensitive to issues involving the apostrophe, those errors seem to jump out at me. This sign made me wonder if all adults share one birthday, because that is what the sign–as written–actually says. It should be “Adult’s Birthday” indicating the birthday belonging to an adult or, even easier, leave the apostrophe out and call it “Adult Birthday.” Really, Target?
I spent Sunday with friends at the Delmar Racetrack. Weather was beautiful, wine was delicious, and time with friends was amazing. However, as the girls say now, “We can’t go anywhere nice.” They say that because as soon as I pull my phone out, they start looking around for errors. This one I found right inside the gates as we were walking in. “Newcomer’s Seminar Daily” was one of the first signs we saw. While I commend the Track on helping people new to horse racing to be comfortable with the language, etc., I wondered to myself why they only held a seminar for one newcomer at a time. When you add the possessive, you should test it by taking off the apostrophe (and the “s” if one is there) to check the root word. In this case, that word would be “newcomer” which is obviously singular–one newcomer. They also apparently know the correct way to state it because it was correct in the program. They are training all of the “newcomers,” so you would START with that word and then make it possessive.
This topic came up recently in my own task of proofreading. If you have an acronym or another all capital letter word, how do you make it plural or possessive? And then once you do, is the added pluralization or possession in all caps or not?
The short answer is that any pluralization or possession is added to the base word, but in this case, it is NOT in all caps:
- There are never any ATMs around when you need them.
- ADOT’s signs don’t always help the traffic flow.
There are times where you will need to use an apostrophe to avoid confusion:
- Her report card had all A’s and B’s.
Here, the “A’s and B’s” are not possessive, but it could be confusing to leave the apostrophe out in “As” as it is a different (and real) word. In this case, the apostrophe in “B’s” is for consistency.
There is some confusion when using abbreviations because making the abbreviations possessive may be different than making the entire original words possessive:
- The United States’ geography is so varied and interesting.
- The U.S.’s geography is so varied and interesting.
You will use the rules depending on how it sounds. The “United States” spelled out does not need an apostrophe and “s” because you don’t say the extra “s.” But using the abbreviation “U.S.,” you would say the extra “s,” so would add the apostrophe and “s.” See Apostrophail!.
Just remember that only the original acronym or abbreviation should be in caps and any pluralization or possession would be added to that, but not in caps.
I found this in a grocery store in Albuquerque. If I were to read this sign literally, I would see that it is $9.99 for the Cod Fillet’s 16 oz. bag, which sounds significantly overpriced unless it is a designer bag. And to warrant a sign, that Cod Fillet must have more bags than some of my friends do. I’m pretty sure they meant to say that the $9.99 was for a 16 oz. bag of cod fillets, but that’s not what it actually says.
I caught this one on a trip back from Albuquerque recently. Even my grandchildren knew this was wrong (since they had to figure out why I had my phone out taking a picture in the middle of a store).
A few weeks ago, a blog post went over several words that are frequently confused by writers (See More Confusing Words!). Here are a few more:
casual – informal
causal – causing
cereal – breakfast food
serial – a series
choose – to select
chose – did choose (past tense of choose)
cite – to quote
site – a place
sight – to see
click – a slight, sharp sound
clique – an exclusive group
cliché – a trite phrase
collision – coming violently together
collusion – fraudulent scheme
complement – something that goes well with something
compliment – a flattering remark
council – a body of persons specially designated or selected for a purpose
counsel – an attorney; to give advice
consul – a foreign representative
cue – hint
queue – a line, especially people waiting their turn
dairy – cows and milking equipment
diary – a journal of daily activities
It’s always important to make sure you are using the same words, particularly when they are easily confused. Take the time to look up definitions if necessary to make sure you are using the correct word.