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The Apostrophe - Grammar Errors

Updated on May 14, 2014

Introducing the Apostrophe

I'd like to introduce my friend, the astute Señor Apostrophe. He is quite the versatile character. Sure, he might be a little short and rather tiny, but his job description makes up for his small size.

Señor Apostrophe loves his job: he's possessive, smashes words together, and inserts himself into situations as needed.

He generally enjoys his job, you see. He is so often used, that people just love to stick him wherever they think they need him.

He's all right with that. He likes to be needed.

Until he gets used...and abused.

That's right. Señor Apostrophe doesn't like to be vicitmized. He should not be used to make words plural, nor should he be used randomly. He despises that.

He'd like you to know about his job. First, there are the "positives."


Oh, the Lamentable Life of the Apostrophe

Positive Use of Apostrophe: Contractions

He loves smashing words together. This is one of his favorite activities. It makes him feel efficient. He takes two words that take up too much space, then smashes them together resulting in one word. Then, he leaves his mark. He says that people call these contractions, but he prefers "smashing" - a word that's easier to remember.

Two of his favorite words to smash are "it" and "is". He rams them into each other to make the word "it's". He'd like very much to say with authority that all too often, writers forget to use him for the express purpose of smashing words together. He requests that you use him so he doesn't feel neglected.

The words "they" and "are" are some other favorites - there are so many letters to smash. When Señor smashes these, they create "they're", not "their" or "there".

Two other favorites are "who" and "is". He dutifully smashes and comes up with "who's". Don't you dare use whose or else you might find Señor Apostrophe crying: :'(

He has another "smashing" fetish. Sometimes, Señor Apostrophe likes to take just one word and perform his magic. Let's take the word "suppose" and smash it: "s'pose". Apostrophe relishes that word.

Indeed, Señor Apostrophe really likes his job.

Interesting Note

It's interesting to note that Señor Apostrophe hasn't been part of the English language that long. He made his first appearance in the 16th century, Shakespeare's time. He was used primarily to show dropped letters from words. Of course, you now see how Señor's job responsibilities have expanded.

Another Positive Use of the Apostrophe: The Possessive Case

He likes to be possessive, too. Not in a bad way, though. He doesn't have a girlfriend or anything like that. He's possessive of words.

If something belongs to Johnny, Señor will insert himself willingly. It's Johnny's book. It's Johnny's car. It's Johnny's life. It's Johnny's decision.

In the examples above, Señor really likes Johnny - the word, that is.

Did I mention that Señor Apostrophe seriously likes his words? He will lord over them and make him his, leaving his characteristic mark.

The dog's collar. Ha! Did you really think the collar belonged to the dog? No! Apostrophe has taken ownership!

My sister's money. Of course, Señor Apostrophe went right over and made his mark on that money.

You see? Señor Apostrophe is quite possessive. If you're not careful, he might possessyou! On second thought, he can't. Señor Apostrophe doesn't have jurisdiction - those are in the possessive pronouns department. Nope - not Señor Apostrophe's job.

Señor Apostrophe being possessive.
Señor Apostrophe being possessive. | Source

Señor Apostrophe Has Other Job Descriptions

Okay, so Señor Apostrophe is slightly neurotic. Besides spending the day smashing words and possessing others, he loves to poke his nose in other letters.

Yes, good ol' Señor, he loves making friends. If a letter is off by itself, he'll walk over and befriend him. Got more than one "A" on your report card? Señor will make sure he's there to witness it: "A's."

He delights when the little humans take good grades home and show the bigger humans all the A's and B's on report cards. He always feels utterly loved in these moments. They just stare and stare, and sometimes shed happy tears.

Señor also loves helping to "shorten" the years. If the year was 1969, and a human wants to shorten it, Señor will avail himself to the task: The summer of '69.

How Well Do You Know Señor Apostrophe's Job Description?


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Señor Apostrophe's Job: The Negatives

Señor delights when he's used correctly. But, when the humans overuse him, he gets all mixed up and can't do his job correctly.

No Plurals, Please

Señor wants to stress that he does not make words plural - generally. Sometimes he goes on special assignment (and he has to make a list of do's and don't's). However, he won't possess a "shoe" that becomes "shoes" or a "potato" that becomes "potatoes". Pluralism isn't part of Señor's job description.

Incorrect Use Of Words That Are Plural

Señor knows that he doesn't make words plural. But, he does commiserate with words that are already plural.

So, if Señor Apostrophe needs to make a stop at the Men's Room, he'll do so. He also has many women friends that talk about women's issues. Señor inserted his characteristic mark on these two words (men's and women's) because they are plural and he had to possess them. The issues of women belong to Señor as well as the room of the men.

But, on other plural words that end in "s", Señor's life gets a little more complicated. He hates it when things get complicated. But, he still stakes his mark and goes on with his life: The twins' room. Señor Apostrophe follows the "s" to try to keep things as un-complicated as possible.

He has three pet dogs that have collars and he has to frequently wash their collars. He tries to get his friend Snooty Semicolon to do it, but she won't have it. So, he sighs and heads to the washroom saying, "I'll wash the dogs' collars." You see, he has to possess the collars and in order to do that, he has to go back to the word "dogs" and add his mark. But "dogs" is already plural, you see. It's not one dog, it's more than one: dogs. He can't insert his mark between the "g" and the "s" because that could get confusing. So, he keeps it simple and just plunks his mark after the "s".

Things That Change

Señor Apostrophe used to avail himself when he wanted to possess someone's name that ended with the letter "s": Mrs. Kings' cookies. Mrs. Kings lives in a big house with a big kitchen to make lots of cookies.

But, Señor acknowledges with a sigh that things change. These days he's used to possess a word slightly differently when it ends in "s": Mrs. Kings's cookies.

But, he will insist that with old names, he shan't possess the word with another "s": Artemis' temple.

There you have it, folks: Señor Apostrophe's job description in a nutshell. Perhaps Snooty Semicolon and Sir Quotes-A-Lot will enlighten us with some descriptions of their own job duties, but for now, Señor Apostrophe reminds us to use him freely but not to abuse and overuse him.

© 2012 Cynthia Sageleaf

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    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Ib radmasters - thank you for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed this. :)

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 5 years ago from Southern California

      Clever and informative, a good review of "'", and I have now completely hidden the ' between " ".

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Kelley - aww...grammar IS SO MUCH FUN! Yes, you read that right. Hehe. Now, to come up with another grammar hub that's also hilarious. Hmmm. Hmmm...

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      I love this Cyndi. You make learning grammar so much fun. I wish my boys had you for an English teacher. Voted up, took the quiz and missed one, voted funny, and pinned. Now off to read the sassy and snooty semicolon hub :). Kelley

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Haha, Debby, if you got a 100% then you need to be writing some quizzes! :D I admit, I am a little shy of that quiz-maker thingie...it took me a few tries to get it right. I almost deleted the thing after the second try, but I finally got it. Perhaps I'll make a "character" for the quiz capsule who attacks innocent readers. hahaha. Thanks so much for stopping by and for the votes.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      You're from the UK, Brett? Wow. I was thinking the US. Hehehe. Small world, I think. Those possessive cases, yeah, the apostrophe can get mean. Watch out! :D

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 5 years ago

      Dear Ashville Girl ~ What a wonderful way to learn punctuation. I shall forward to the grandchildren. Also, I'm posting my grade on your little quiz. "You scored 100%!" Whoop-di-do! Also, please create a tutorial blog on how to use that darn quiz maker, because I haven't been able to figure it out at all. Too confusing for me. I gave this hub high marks across the board. Blessings, Debby

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Another fun grammar hub (how often do you say that!? lol). The possessive always confuses me when writing for US and UK, as you have "John's ball" or "Johns' Ball" the second just doesn't seem right to me, but then I'm from the UK.

      SOCIALLY SHARING and voting up!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      alocsin - kind sir, it's always great to see your comments. Thank you for your kind words and votes.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      An amusing hub about the necessity of the apostrophe. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Hehe, tammy, I think he'd be most pleased. He loves it when people use his services. :D

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Cute! I just discovered I need to make a personal appointment with Senor Apostrophe!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thanks, Vinaya. I'm glad you liked it. :)

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      English is my second language. Every time I see a hub on language and grammar usage, I read it.

      This is very useful and informative article. I hope to come back again.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Hehehe...RGNestle, I completely agree. I've always loved grammar. Those fine points of punctuation seemed to mark my world with sparks of literary color. Thank you for commenting.

    • RGNestle profile image

      RGNestle 5 years ago from Seattle

      I am so glad you covered Señor Apostrophe's possession of names ending in "s". I still think that there should be no change in the proper use (e.g. Jess', Thomas', Sis'). No one can say Jess's, Thomas's, Sis's or any other "s" ending name without sounding like they have a speech impediment. I just think the "new" way that people force Señor Apostrophe to do his job is ludicrous's. :^)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Senor Apostrophe does indeed try to amuse. Thanks for reading, hawkdad73. :)

    • hawkdad73 profile image

      hawkdad73 5 years ago from Riverside, Iowa

      I love reading stuff about punctuation. This was amusing.

      Thanks.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      K. Fixed. You punctuational demon, you. ;)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Rats - I saw that when I was "editing" because I substituted one word for another...that dang Senor...I'm going to have to smack 'im. Thanks writeronline...pardon me while I slap my hand on my head.

    • profile image

      writeronline 5 years ago

      Hmmm, very interesting. There is of course another school of thought, that questions the need for punctuation at all. Even elegantly titled punctuation like Senor Apostrophe. As chance would have it :-), there's an example not a million miles from here of how well we can comprehend the written word sans punctuation in any form. It's called, "Is Punctuation Pointless?. Should you wish to consider the question, please feel free to visit my profile and have a (speed)read.

      BTW, re Senor Apostrophe and the abuses he has to endure, could it be that he has himself tripped you? In the caption reading, "Señor's Apostrophe's Job"....?

      :)