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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pet Peeve: Attack of the Killer Apostrophes

I don't know what's happened out there, people. Apostrophes have infiltrated and taken over the rational minds of ordinary folks everywhere. Once we found them attached to objects people owned, such as

Lord Grantham's hair
Mr. Bates's cane
Lady Sibyl's trousers

But now they're all over the place. We've given up! Plurals be damned! You never know when you might need an apostrophe, so best to insert them willy-nilly, right?

Adult's $7, Kid's $5
Thank's for Not Smoking
Free Pancake's for Everyone

Wrong. Oh, so very wrong.

This isn't hard, folks, which is why it's such a pet peeve:

Don't use an apostrophe to make a singular noun plural.

If a noun has an apostrophe s, you're left hanging, wondering what's coming next. The Adult's ... what? The Pancake's ... what? (syrup? waffle buddy? I don't know). And Thank's is frankly puzzling. So, let's make it easy:

2 Books for $1
Get Your Burgers and Fries Here
Cars Washed While You Wait
Happy Holidays
Free Kittens to a Good Home

I know none of those looks odd to you. Trust your gut. If your Books, Burgers, Cars, Holidays, or Kittens don't possess something, they won't need an apostrophe. Note the difference here. The possession is in red, hence the apostrophe is needed:

Kittens: FREE
Kitten's Toy: FREE

We stayed for two nights.
I had a good night's sleep.

Priests Sleep Free
Priest's Car for Sale

Questions? Or, maybe, question's?


  1. Replies
    1. It's = it is / it has: It's two o'clock. It's been raining for an hour. It's so good to see you.

      its = possessive, like his, my, our: Water that plant; its leaves are drooping. The car looks great, but its transmission is shot.

  2. Yes! We must band together against the improper use of apostrophe's! (Sorry, I couldn't resist...)
    There's an adorable little market near my house that I can't bear to shop at because of its sign: "Soda's--Sandwich's--Grocery's"!! Every time I see it, I think, "Their...what?"

    1. I don't know how this got started, Faith! Will I sound like an old fogey if I say I didn't see this much when I was a kid? (Yes, Claire, you will.) OK, but still ...