Apostrophe Catastrophe

Stop! That Curb Are Belong to Us!


Apostrophe Catastrophe!
How many do we need?
It seems that everywhere we look,
Apostrophes we see!
Oh, please, you people, get it right:
They’re not for every s;
They’re only when you squish two words,
Or have a thing possessed!
That’s ownership: Like yours, or mine,
Or hers, or his, or theirs;
Apostrophe for one dog’s bone,
But not for dogs in pairs!
Apostrophe before the s
For Mary’s brother’s shoe,
But with twin girls or pairs of shoes,
Just s alone will do.

This rules are summed up nicely in a poster from theoatmeal.com:

Excerpt of "How to Use An Apostrophe" Poster at theoatmeal.com


Or, in a wearable form, on T-shirts from Sharing Machine:

Item 33 from Sharing Machine (It Hurts Me to Even Look At It)

What really flummoxes me is how a writer can, in one sentence, religiously insert the apostrophe into almost every plural but leave out one or two–WTF?!?–and then not insert it into a single possessive–unless it’s the wrong it’s.  How did they get the rules exactly backwards?

For a while, tried my best to politely, gently, send out sweetly-worded humorous educational missives signed “Grammar Goddess”, “Spelling Sorceress”, or “Punctuation Princess”–even to the New York Times.  Then, regained my sanity and semblance of a life.  Allie of the hysterical Hyperbole and a Half handles her reactions to language errors with so much more wisdom, and significantly more wit, than do I–and bless her drawings!

Don't Worry--Baby Safe.

(Learn more about the Alot.)

Am driven half-mad with the atrocious spelling and grammar present everywhere now, not from prissiness, but because  I  have to stop to puzzle out what the writer thought s/he intended to say.  THAT drives me batty.  Sometimes, I fail to figure out what was meant.  The fun banter on reddit is a perfect example (confirmed lurker here).  Smart people often sounding dumber than sh*t.  It’s literally hard to derp out what some of them are saying.  

It makes me sad that most folk these days think such errors are picayune.  They don’t see that these will increase until, despite all the I-mazing tech available, written communication will become increasingly difficult for all.

But by then, we will be writing Asian characters, yes? (which are phonetic, so no spelling needed ever again–something to look forward to!)

In case not:   Since the bulk of parents aren’t reading to their kids regularly for pleasure and with love (and by now, most don’t read well enough to do it); and some teachers aren’t up to the job and we aren’t paying salaries to get the ones who are (and even our competent teachers are weakened by discipline problems caused by today’s unparented students); and kids’ cartoons no longer offer songs with “follow the bouncing ball”, which is how I  learned to read at the age of 2–no one ever read to me, but we watched a heck of a lot of TV (thank you, whatever-station in Chicago, and WOR-TV in New York)…

…we’d actually be saving money by using public school dollars to bring the Your Baby Can Read videos into preschools and kindergarten classrooms, sit the kids in front of the vids, and enough already:  Job done.  And then I can enjoy reddit more in my old age.

edited ’13 to shrink images for phones

Leave a comment


  1. And I thought I was the only one who might be considered perturbed by this! Thanks for this!


  2. Hi, C.S.!

    Thank you for stopping by, and the Like!

    No, you are not alone in the expectation that written communication actually succeed in communicating what writers intend. (Golly. What a concept.) But we are in the (apparent) minority which still recognizes that this requires adherence to standards shared by both sender and receiver–standards that include common vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

    And all the talk is about fixing this at the wrong end–grades above K or 1. Children should be well on their way to reading by then. Better that preschools and over-busy or low-effort parents sit little ones down for an hour once or twice a day in front of a karaoke machine (or “Teach Your Baby to Read” or some similar vid series) and get them reading, rather than the the current choice: TV, computer, or Disney DVD. That is, unless the subtitles for the latter are writ large.

    Oops–did I just go off on one of my pet soapboxes? Sorry…

    Thanks again : )



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