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The Apostrophe Protection Society:
August 12, 2002 7:57 AM   Subscribe

The Apostrophe Protection Society: ...reminding all writers of English text, whether on notices or in documents of any type, of the correct usage of the apostrophe should you wish to put right mistakes you may have inadvertently made.
posted by acridrabbit (57 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Their example page is pretty funny.

In my opinion, the more formal and permanent the text is, the funnier. I'm waiting to find apostrophe abuse literally carved in stone.
posted by goethean at 8:31 AM on August 12, 2002


I would like to point out that I find it very funny that this site (while claiming to protect the apostrophe) uses the inch mark ' instead of the apostrophe ’.
posted by ColdChef at 8:34 AM on August 12, 2002


Curse you, box.
posted by ColdChef at 8:35 AM on August 12, 2002


[Woop] there it is.
posted by goethean at 8:36 AM on August 12, 2002


A similar concept.

(And as I'm one of the rash of recent sign-ups just working up the nerve to post a comment, um, hi)
posted by jacquilynne at 8:37 AM on August 12, 2002


uses the inch mark ' instead of the apostrophe ?

…and that's why they do.
posted by timeistight at 8:38 AM on August 12, 2002


Argh! Hoisted on my own petard!
posted by timeistight at 8:39 AM on August 12, 2002


I agree with the sentiments here as apostrophe misuse really bugs me too.

However, I am always a bit stumped about where to use apostrophes in the abbreviations of things like Personal Computers, Compact Disks and the like.

Technically because the 'D' in CD stands for Disk, then you are replacing the 'isk' with something - i.e. an apostrophe, therefore the plural term would be CD's.

But on this site they're saying that it should be CDs therefore denoting that CD is now a recognized noun in the English language. But I didn't think that an abbreviation could be a noun?

I am all for this format (i.e. CDs rather than CD's and PCs rather than PC's) but does anyone else have views on this?
posted by andyHollister at 8:44 AM on August 12, 2002


Use CDs and PCs.

If the missing letters bother you, go with C.D.s and P.C.s.

Of course, apostrophes work for possessive: The PC's HD.
posted by goethean at 8:46 AM on August 12, 2002


by your logic, andyhollister, the technical term would be c'd's. you're also replacing the "ompact".

i like cds and pcs.

what's the correct usage with decades, though? i got into a huge argument with my english teacher some years ago when she took points off an assignment when i said "the 70s" instead of "the 70's".
posted by pikachulolita at 8:47 AM on August 12, 2002


The '70s.
posted by rory at 8:56 AM on August 12, 2002


Somehow I didn't think this thread would get so many comments...

Anyway, here, as we all know, is the True Bible (Mr. Strunk, that is) and its (notice my correct usage of apostrophe in "its") take on the subject (it agrees, of course.)

It's (woo hoo! Got "It's" right again!) a bit of a slow Monday, inn't (sic) it?
posted by argybarple at 8:57 AM on August 12, 2002


It's CDs and VCRs, because they're abbreviations, not contractions like can't (for can not) or gov't (for government). I'm amazed at some of the places I've seen you're for your and it's for its. Its ridiculous (yes, error intended).
posted by The Michael The at 8:57 AM on August 12, 2002


CDs is not a contraction of CD! If it were, apostrophe usage might be correct. But it is not. The apostrophe in this case could only be seen as possessive, and unless you were referring to that which belonged to a particular CD ("the CD's case was dirty"), you'd be just plain WRONG.

Unfortunately, many otherwise respectable sources misuse the apostrophe. The New York Times stylebook requires decades to be written shorthand as XX's, instead of the obviously correct (by every standard from Strunk & White to Chicago to MLA) contraction-specific 'XXs.

Your English teacher, Pikachulolita, was correct, but not because you didn't use XX's; she was correct to downgrade you for not using 'XXs - the apostrophe is very important, and should not be left out altogether, as it very plainly signifies the place of removed text or digits.
posted by luriete at 8:59 AM on August 12, 2002


I tutored English in college, and one of the toughest things to explain was the proper use of the apostrophe. Old habits are hard to break. However, I did find a pretty effective trick for clearing up the difference between it’s and its: teach the student what a pronoun is, then point out that all possessive pronouns lack apostrophes. His, hers, yours, mine, its, theirs--not an apostrophe to be seen. It usually worked quite well.

Also, for special character entities like ‘this’ and “this”—and even this—that display properly in every browser I’ve tested them on, from IE 6 right down to Lynx (and please do let me know if your setup differs), this article may be of help. Note, however, that when people copy your text to quote it, if they don’t re-enter the special character codes, we’ll get boxes again in the quoted text (as I found out soon after posting my very first comment here on Metafilter).
posted by Acetylene at 9:05 AM on August 12, 2002


Its got to be easy trolling on their message board.
posted by herc at 9:11 AM on August 12, 2002


What about adding -ed to an acronym?

When software is licensed under the GPL it's "gee-pee-elled." Would you use GPL'd, GPL'ed, GPLd, GPLed, GPL:d, or GPL:ed?
posted by winterdrm at 9:13 AM on August 12, 2002


For apostrophe usage, I always ask Angry Bob. Not that I think it's all that important.
posted by seanyboy at 9:14 AM on August 12, 2002


Many of my (adult) Welsh students tend to ignore apostrophes altogether, along with most punctuation and accents. Frustrating, especially with the definite article, which is 'r after a vowel. I blame their English teachers.
posted by ceiriog at 9:16 AM on August 12, 2002


But do you blame their ENGLISH teachers, or their English TEACHERS?
posted by luriete at 9:17 AM on August 12, 2002


winterdrm: How about "licensed"? Or "licensed under the GPL"?
posted by acridrabbit at 9:26 AM on August 12, 2002


Faith must be very proud of her funeral home business
posted by tippiedog at 9:41 AM on August 12, 2002


I saw a movie preview recently which included this credit:

A Hughes Brother's Film


Makes me wonder what the other brother was doing.
posted by ook at 9:42 AM on August 12, 2002


What about adding -ed to an acronym?
When software is licensed under the GPL it's "gee-pee-elled."


It's pretty bad form to turn an acronym into a verb. It may be fine in speech, as in your "gee-pee-elled" example, but writing has always been and always will be (h4xors and teenaged girls be damned) a more formal affair. Just saying "licensed under the GPL" is perfectly clear and avoids the strangeness of an acronymic verb.
posted by me3dia at 9:45 AM on August 12, 2002


On one of the the examples pages: -

Forever in our hearts
We'll soar with you
On eagles wings

I sat puzzled for some time wondering what on Earth was the problem with we'll - until it twigged that it was the apostrophe missing from 'eagles' that was the issue.
posted by nthdegx at 9:55 AM on August 12, 2002


My two (least) favorites were when students, trying to sound folksy, would use ole' for old, like "the good ole' days." ol' or ole is OK; ole' is what bull fighters say. And, please, it's y'all. Please.
PLEASE!
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:56 AM on August 12, 2002


As I noted before, apostrophes have been causing problem since at least 1938.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:59 AM on August 12, 2002


Its got to be easy trolling on their message board.

Don't you mean "It's" ?

Microsoft Word's grammar checker has really corrected my apostrophe usage. Most of my English teachers barely touched on the subject.

avoids the strangeness of an acronymic verb.

Hear hear, those kind of verbs just contribute to FUBARing the whole language.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:00 AM on August 12, 2002


Does anyone know the correct way of pluralising lower case letters?

For example, I can say that I did two assignments at school and scored 2 As and it is obvious what is meant but how would I write something similar where the letter was not a capital? It would just look like "as".
posted by saintsguy at 10:01 AM on August 12, 2002


From the first example page, this image is unobjectionable. "Security camera is in operation." Spelling it out would be preferable.
posted by hilker at 10:13 AM on August 12, 2002


There's no way of pluralizing lower-case letters. Rewrite the sentence: "and got an A on each."

Thanks, Acetylene, for the excellent link — I'm an em-dash addict, and you've saved me from the dread double-hyphen.
posted by nicwolff at 10:18 AM on August 12, 2002


Really, that should have been "no way to pluralize", not "no way of pluralizing" which is colloquial. Bleagh.
posted by nicwolff at 10:21 AM on August 12, 2002


When I was teaching English Composition, saintsguy's example came up numerous times. I found a number of sources that allowed the use of apostrophes when forming plurals if (and only if) they were needed to avoid confusion. For example: He received six A's on his report card (avoiding "As" as it is a word in its own right).
posted by trox at 10:22 AM on August 12, 2002


Also, for special character entities like ‘this’ and “this”—and even this—that display properly in every browser I’ve tested them on, from IE 6 right down to Lynx (and please do let me know if your setup differs)

I don't want to derail this thread, but as a sometime user of Mozilla-based browsers on Linux (using Truetype fonts snagged from a Windows machine, even), I can confirm that many "typographically correct" HTML entities such as proper apostrophes and em dashes do not display correctly on every browser. Mozilla on Windows has no problem, though. The upshot is that you may want to continue using icky inch marks and hyphens for the time being if you want to avoid subjecting some minority of your readers to those annoying little box characters.
posted by cobra libre at 10:26 AM on August 12, 2002


Just saying "licensed under the GPL" is perfectly clear and avoids the strangeness of an acronymic verb.

I like acronymic verbs. "Licensed under the GPL" seems to me an awkward waste of space.

I also like 70s instead of '70s. We all know that we aren't talking about the decade between the years 70 and 79 A.D. If the meaning is absolutely clear without the punctuation, then insisting on using the punctuation anyway is holding back the language's natural development, not preserving its integrity.

What I find interesting about the apostrophe rules is that they don't apply to certain old British proper nouns, like Kings Cross, because those names were made famous before the use of the apostrophe more or less stabilized in English.

I never use the MS grammar checker. It's as annoying as that little paper clip guy.
posted by bingo at 10:26 AM on August 12, 2002


I think the reason that this thread is getting so much traffic is because the grammar and punctuation rules of the English language are so exception ridden that only the most astute and anal writer can remember them all. Now granted, the rules for apostrophes in and of themselves are easy to remember, but couple that with the rest of the unstructured English language mess and you've got a migraine waiting to happen.

At least in Russian you could count on most of the rules working most of the time.
posted by bemmett at 10:43 AM on August 12, 2002


On the other hand, modern Irish (Gaelic, not English with an accent) is worse than English. There really aren't "rules," just guidelines. :::shudder:::
posted by The Michael The at 11:00 AM on August 12, 2002


For sorting through this stuff, I'd recommend Bryan Garner's Dictionary of Modern American Usage. (For more information about Garner, check out this article by David Foster Wallace.)

My pet peeve: Most people don't know how to use apostrophes for possessive nouns (i.e., "Mr. Rogers's car" not "Mr. Rogers' car," and "the Rogerses' car" not "the Rogers' car") so when you have to explain it to them they look at you like you're nuts.
posted by subgenius at 11:05 AM on August 12, 2002


"Mr. Rogers's car" not "Mr. Rogers' car..."

Unless it happens to be Jesus' car.

(There are a couple other exceptions. Ancient proper names? "For conscience' sake?")

What, English, confusing?
posted by argybarple at 11:21 AM on August 12, 2002


So can we call this "apostrophilia"?
posted by insomnyuk at 12:21 PM on August 12, 2002


*koff*

I'm just sayin'.

Carry on.
posted by Tin Man at 12:27 PM on August 12, 2002


My favorite misuse:
Do's and Don'ts vs Dos and Don'ts
posted by Jeff Howard at 12:34 PM on August 12, 2002


As a professional editor, I feel compelled to weigh in on this. There is no bible when it comes to usage (despite what you devotees of Strunk may think). There are certain universally accepted rules (its vs. it's), there are rules that vary geographically (commas in or out of quotes), and there are lots of rules that vary according to style guide. Plurals of abbreviations are a good example of these. Words Into Type says to use an apostrophe: "ABC's." AMA says not to: "ECGs." Merriam-Webster's Collegiate says to use it for "punctuated abbreviations": "Ph.D's" (I believe this is also New York Times usage). There's no right or wrong in these matters; it's simply a matter of maintaining consistency within a given publication or organization. At my last place of employment we used Chicago; here, I've had to get used to the AMA Manual. To those of you who are nonetheless convinced that there is one right way to do everything, I suggest you look deep within your souls and make sure you're not hooked on the simple thrill of thinking "Gotcha!" Which is fun, don't get me wrong, but first make sure you have your facts straight.

On preview: Jeff, Words Into Type and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate both support using the apostrophe for the plural of words referred to as words.
posted by languagehat at 12:41 PM on August 12, 2002 [1 favorite]


Oh, and subgenius: that DFW article is egomaniacal, ignorant tripe. I don't want to go into detail here (e-mail me if you want the whole mess), but to give you an idea, he consistently gets Latin wrong ("q.v." when he means "v."; ungrammatical use of Horace's quandoque), misuses fancy words ("inditement"), and claims to know things he couldn't possibly know (the "specific purposes" for which language was "invented"). His basic technique is to dazzle you with (often fake) erudition and then demand you take his word for it all (footnote 23 is an egregious example; half the long, long footnote is bullying rhetoric, the second half says "Trust Wittgenstein").
All that notwithstanding, Garner's is a damn good usage guide, and I often recommend it to nonprofessionals; it's clear, up-to-date (I hate the hyphens there, but Webster's now mandates them), and written with brio.
posted by languagehat at 12:56 PM on August 12, 2002 [2 favorites]


...and written with brio.

Written with cheese?
posted by argybarple at 1:05 PM on August 12, 2002


Let's hear from Bob The Angry Flower.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:08 PM on August 12, 2002


languagehat: There is no bible when it comes to usage (despite what you devotees of Strunk may think). There are certain universally accepted rules (its vs. it's)...

I'm trying to think of a grammar rule as stated by Strunk that is not universal and so is debatable, and I'm having a tough time (you might fare better?) Then again, there are situations that Strunk did not cover, so I guess it can't be the "bible."

Still, it's a brilliant, indispensible little book. White's additions are just as fantastic. I absolutely cannot think of a style manual a writer should buy first, unless maybe he is a technical writer (only).
posted by argybarple at 1:37 PM on August 12, 2002


...and written with brio.

Written with cheese?


You're thinking of brie.

Brio is an adjective, I think it means 'energetic'. Which is a good thing if you're reading a manual regarding style.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:25 PM on August 12, 2002


For the record, when you are abbreviating a year, and you want to put an apostrophe before the number to indicate the missing century (18, 19, 20, etc.), the apostrophe curves *to the left*, not to the right, no matter what the Microsoft Word grammar-checker tells you. It's like a close-single-quote, but it isn't. (Let's see if this decimal HTML entity works:)

’70
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:36 PM on August 12, 2002


"...and written with brio."

"Written with cheese?"

"You're thinking of brie."


Okay, is there an emoticon I need to use to indicate (inherant, obvious) sarcasm?

Anyway, good point about (lack of) energeticism in style manuals (yes, I know it's not a word -- not in this imperfect world, anyway.)
posted by argybarple at 5:22 PM on August 12, 2002


Oh dear God, I'm officially a humorless hack :)
posted by insomnyuk at 7:59 PM on August 12, 2002


For years I have derived a lot of innocent pleasure from misused quotation marks. One of my favorites:

My mother sent my husband and me a Valentine's Day card. Printed on the front was:
To a special daughter and "son."
I'm sure my husband really felt like one of the family after that.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:01 PM on August 12, 2002


Gravy, technically that isn't a misuse. It's just tacky.
posted by bingo at 1:23 AM on August 13, 2002


luriete: But do you blame their ENGLISH teachers, or their English TEACHERS?

Oh, the former, because all Welsh tutors are xenophobic idiots.
posted by ceiriog at 2:56 AM on August 13, 2002


Here is a sign on my street: Please remove your dogs litter
posted by TeejNSF at 7:53 AM on August 13, 2002


Anyway, good point about (lack of) energeticism in style manuals (yes, I know it's not a word -- not in this imperfect world, anyway.)

Why not just use energy, then?
posted by hilker at 8:45 AM on August 13, 2002


"Why not just use energy, then?"

Not energistic enough.

You're an editor, aren't you?
(Caveat: This comment employs sarcasm. The author does not truly believe you are an editor, nor does he endorse the unbridled use of the non-word "energistic" or forms thereof.)
posted by argybarple at 12:46 PM on August 13, 2002


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