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A Little This 'n' That for the '00s: Apostrophies

A Little This 'n' That for the '00s: Apostrophies

Mike Lenhart

Punctuation and typography, and the correct uses thereof, are very important to me. I guess that’s an inherent trait of someone in the visual communications field. There are a LOT of punctuation marks out there, and a LOT of misusage as well. The apostrophe is one of them. Let’s have a little discussion on this, shall we?

I did a little research on the use of punctuation in general (thanks, Allan Haley) and was intrigued to find that no punctuation of any sort was used in writing until the ninth century. During this time, Aldus Manutius refined the punctuation work done by the English scholar, Alcuin, who set standards for the scribes of the Roman Empire. (Manutius was an evil genious!) It wasn’t until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, however, when the apostrophe, along with quotation and question marks, were added in the mix. The apostrophe has been used and abused ever since.

Let’s go over the basic rule of apostrophic use: an apostrophe belongs where the letter is missing! Now how simple is that to remember? (Thank you, Robin Williams!) So, let’s see some examples of the correct usage of this:

Mom and Pop = Mom ‘n’ Pop (the “a” and “d” are missing)

the 1980s = the ‘80s (the “19” is missing and we’re not being possessive here, so there is no apostrophe before the “s”)

The many recreational vehicles of Al = Al’s RVs (when we’re being possessive, there is an apostrophe / RVs is plural and not possessive, so there is NO apostrophe)

I saw this last example on a television commercial, where it is used incorrectly, even in Al’s logo, and just about had a coronary. (Al’s RV’s was plastered everywhere!) Obviously, Al didn’t hire a graphic design professional to come up with his logo or check his punctuation use.

Since we’re talking plurals and possessives, what about its and it’s? (its is the possessive form of the word and it’s means it is or it has – notice the “i” and “h” are missing in the latter example).

I hope this lesson will help those of you who may have been unclear on this concept. It’s OK, it’s not like it’s comprehended by everyone on its usage. We all need to help each other a little now ‘n’ then, right? I know, enough is enough!

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