Lesson 8: Punctuation Attitudes - Apostrophes and Quotation Marks

 

And now really finally, sometimes there are practical considerations that lead to an apostrophe being left off where it might otherwise appear. For example, many people have picked on the errors of apostrophe usage on signs. Lynne Truss of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves fame writes about wanting to protest the movie "Two Weeks Notice" because it had no apostrophe in its title – and should, she claimed.

 

But we don’t seem to get similarly bothered by the lack of punctuation on signs in general. We do not expect fully-punctuated sentences on signs.

 

SLOW not PLEASE GO SLOWLY.

Or even Please drive slowly.

 

We could have a book-length discussion on apostrophe usage alone. One thing I mean to emphasize here is that there are some reasons for the variation and reasons for the “errors” that go beyond people simply being “ignorant” or “lazy.” Remember, language change is ongoing, and quite often the variety used by a minority of people – and thus the stigmatized form – eventually becomes the form adopted by the majority and then becomes standard.

 

But apostrophe usage that differs from standard expectations really bugs a lot of people. The Apostrophe Protection Society has an impressive collection of apostrophe errors found out in the world. You too can send in your own. Spotting these errors gives people a “gotcha” moment, where they can proudly point out how someone misused the apostrophe. I get it. No one wants to not conform to expectations for fear of being judged. But what I think is more interesting is to think about why people make apostrophe errors - variations, we’ll call them - and in what particular cases they do.

 

Activity: Go to The Blog of Unncessary Quotes: http://www.unnecessaryquotes.com/

Just like apostrophes, these marks “” have more than one use and meaning. It is their multiple uses that makes some of them funny. Discuss the various uses of “” and why some people consider some of these examples to be misuses.