Category Archives: writing skills

Be Kind to Puppies

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Apostrophes DON’T mean “more than one.”

There’s a big difference between these two sentences:

I bought crackers, cheese, salted nuts, and ginger ale for next Tuesday, when the Wilsons are dropping by. (no “of” ideas – no apostrophes)

The Wilsons’ son is joining the Navy.  (son of the Wilsons – apostrophe)

To learn more about apostrophes, click here.

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Using an Apostrophe with the Word “People”

Source: gocomics.com via Jean on Pinterest

 

Is people’s (third panel) correct? Yes!

Here’s how to insert apostrophes: Spell the word. The apostrophe goes after the last letter.

In people, the last letter is “e.” So there you have it: people’s.

Easy, isn’t it?

Incidentally, I loathe the phrase “that of” and never use it. Naturalness trumps grammar every time, at least for me. I would have rewritten the first panel like this:

James Joyce is my persona.

or

I use James Joyce as my persona.

(To learn more about apostrophes, click here.)

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The Apostrophe in New Year’s Eve

Some self-proclaimed (and ill-informed) grammar “experts” will try to tell you that apostrophes can be used only when there’s human ownership. My husband, a garden writer, has been chided for writing “the sycamore’s leaves” and “summer’s heat.” Hah!

Glance at the calendar today and you’ll see an apostrophe in New Year’s Eve. Is it correct? Of course. Is there human ownership? No. The apostrophe is a short, convenient way to say “Eve of New Year” (just as “Mary’s car” is a short way to say “car of Mary”).

Bottom line: Don’t believe everyone who tries to teach you the rights and wrongs of grammar. (And I hope 2017 is a great year for you!)

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If’s and But’s Sometimes Need Apostrophes

You’ve probably heard your mother say it (mine did): “If if’s and but’s were candy and nuts….” Why are there apostrophes in if’s and but’s?

You will remember that apostrophes are properly used in contractions (can’t, don’t) and “of” expressions (Jean’s car, today’s headline). If’s and but’s don’t own anything. Are the apostrophes correct?

The answer is yes. Although apostrophes don’t usually mean more than one, there’s an exception: plurals of numerals, letters, and words used in special circumstances.

Here’s what I mean. Suppose you wrote a note to a co-worker saying, “I have trouble reading your handwriting because sometimes you forget to dot your is.” You meant that your co-worker forgets the dot on the “i.” But it looks like you wrote the word is.

So you’d use an apostrophe, like this: “I have trouble reading your handwriting because sometimes you forget to dot your i’s.”  CORRECT

Here are a few more examples:

I’m revising my essay because I used too many and’s. CORRECT

My computer keyboard sticks when I try to type 2’s and 9’s. CORRECT

Gail earned straight A’s in college. CORRECT

Is everybody clear that I’m NOT giving you permission to write Smith’s when you mean the whole Smith family? Good!

The Smiths sent us a postcard from Hawaii. CORRECT

Very few people know how to use apostrophes correctly. Welcome to this select group! (Did you notice I didn’t put an apostrophe into apostrophes?)

 
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