Apostrophes, Please!

I have three reasons for loving The Washington Post:

  1.  In 1889 the newspaper commissioned John Philip Sousa to write the “Washington Post March.”
  2. Carolyn Hax writes the advice column.
  3. I can read articles online free, thanks to a complimentary subscription from my local newspaper.

But The Washington Post also drives me crazy. Would someone please, please teach them how to do apostrophes? And while you’re at it, would you teach teachers how to teach them?

Here’s how apostrophes are usually taught: “Before the s if it’s singular, after the s if it’s plural – and don’t forget about special plurals and proper names ending in s, which are before the s.” Which, of course, almost everyone promptly forgets.

Here’s how apostrophes are properly taught: “Spell the word or name. Find the last letter. Put the apostrophe after that last letter. Add an s if you need it.”

Let’s look at two recent examples from The Washington Post.

Yesterday’s edition discusses the belief that the government should be in charge of virtually everything in peoples’ lives.

OK, here we go. What’s the last letter of people? E. Put the apostrophe after the E: people’s. (It’s different if you’re an anthropologist, but let’s not go there today.)  

Now let’s go back a week to an article about Melania Trump: The first lady will focus on womens’ difficulties, President Trump says.

Let’s spell women. It ends with N, right? So here’s how you do it: women’s.

Not difficult, folks!



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