Apostrophic Lapses

Good morning everyone!
I have been reading in Lynne Truss’s book, Eats, Shoots
and Leaves and came across her lament about misused and AWOL apostrophes.
Ms Truss tells of how she wrote an article for The Daily Telegraph about incorrect or missing punctuation and got an avalanche of letters from readers sharing and ticked off over violations they’d seen.

A lack of apostrophic know-how & know-where leads to signs like:

Lemon’s – 2 for $1
(or even) Lemon,s – 2 for $1
Trouser’s shortened
Summer cottages’ for rent
Member’s Only
Mikes’ Garage
The Smiths’s Silver Anniversary
Cyclist’s only on this path
The guest speakers talk will be about…
XMA’S trees
Jamison Antique,s

Her account, coupled with various writing prompts yesterday and today, has led me to write this verse:


Apostrophe confusion
gives Editor such grief:
he finds them wandering randomly
or employed beyond belief.

For Thompson’s prone to muff it
typesetting the word beaux’s
and covering the Jone’s affair
his know-where hits new lows.

An ad reads “Naval orange’s”
and Molly’s ship is sinking,
while it’s and its and their and they’re
confuse that fellow Pinking.

Restrained the Editor may be
but don’t you know he’ll rage
should “Sports Marts’ Sale on Bycycle’s”
appear on his printed page.

He caught “the citys’ bylaw”
before it got to press,
but a write-up about the Queens’ speech
led to a royal mess.

So he begs them to get serious:
“Study punctuation rules!
We need to shake this errancy
so we don’t look like fools.”

“But I was sure I had it right,”
dumbfounded Molly wails.
Editor sighs and insists again
on accurate details.

“Our readers are nit-picking,”
young Thompson quickly states.
Editor growls. “Get it right or else
your job here terminates.”

“From now on I’ll be checking
on every bit of copy;
your pages will be cremated
if you hand in anything sloppy.”

“No apostrophic laxity
permissible henceforth
or there will be pecuniary
punishment in store.”

Ragtag Daily Prompt: SERIOUS
Word of the Day: CREMATE
M-W’s Word of the Day: PECUNIARY

7 thoughts on “Apostrophic Lapses

  1. Fantastic, Christine! The number of times I grit my teeth whilst reading texts with apostrophes posed willy-nilly! Do please explain to me why in one sentence there will be “kitties and puppie’s for sale”… how did the second item get personalised? Hmm? Do please explain…

    This is one of my (okay, many) pet peeves…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I did. Don’t get me started… Remember when you could get, say 85% for a story but lose 10-15% (not I, of course) for spelling and grammar errors? Or in any subject, for that matter.Geograpby, etc. Points docked. Today? Pffft.


  2. Oh boy, you touched a nerve for this’ old Englishs’ teacher’.

    I used to tell my student’s, “I think you’s guys’ just throw a handful of apostrophe’s and commas’ at your papers’ and hope some of them fall in the right places.’

    And I could go on and on about putting a period our comma OUTSIDE the quotation marks. Just don’t. It’s always wrong. “Place a period INSIDE the quotation marks.” “Otherwise you end up with this”.
    Which looks silly. Same for commas. INSIDE. Always. No exceptions. “You don’t want to end up with this”,

    Of course, I understand that some of these rules change over time because the misuse becomes so common as to become accepted. It shouldn’t. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I proofed this twice and still didn’t catch “our” instead of “or.” Blame it on my cataracts. Both eyes. I’m just not seeing as clearly as I used to. And I do hope everyone understands that I was being purposefully incorrect at the beginning of my post!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your comment and yes, to me it was clear you were tossing those apostrophes willy-nilly.

        Most of the examples I gave were my own, based on some of the author’s examples, but XMA’S trees was one that someone actually saw on a sign. That one knocked me for a loop.

        I’m going to reread the rules on periods in or out. They say nowadays you shouldn’t use “air quote” marks in writing so the reader will “get it”. However, I recall reading that in that case, the period is not considered part of the quote and should go outside.

        Thus an actual quote, however small, would be like:
        In English we only pronounce the words “have to” for emphasis. Mother said, “Yes you have to.” But in most cases English speakers use a slurred “Ya hafta.”
        But: Jane sighed when she read the sign: Pumpkin’s 4 Sale. Whatever happened to “proper English”?

        Will check more on this one. And could this be a difference between US & British grammar, like the Oxford comma?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Maybe. And the rule changes for question marks and exclamation points. For those, it depends on whether or not the quote itself contains a question or exclamation:

        Did she ask, “What time is the party”?

        She asked, “What time is the party?”


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