As far as punctuation goes, my favourite symbol is the exclamation mark! I believe it is no surprise that the exclamation mark has been given pride of place above number 1. I also admire its next-door neighbour, the at symbol. To have had one foot in the grave just a few decades ago and turn that around to become the veritable go-to guy of punctuation marks is surely an impressive achievement by anyone’s standards. Next down the row is the gutsy, forward thinking hashtag which I like to imagine as a Gen Y up-and-comer who has just dropped out of business school but is likely to be CEO of a multibillion dollar company within the next few years. And who doesn’t adore the humble question mark? Without it, where would we be??
There is much to love about many of the punctuation marks at our disposal; we are blessed. But there is one punctuation mark which I believe has gotten way too big for its boots…
Not content to provide an excellent service indicating possession and filling in for missing letters in contractions, the apostrophe has invaded the plural market. Having no enemy to contend with, the apostrophe raised its flag, set up camp, and is now so happily ensconced it is sitting by the pool drinking margaritas.
Apostrophe misuse has become so prolific that if you attempt to use the apostrophe correctly, people think you’re wrong. As a manager, I tried to correct apostrophe misuse in presentations a number of times only to have my direct reports look confused, nod their heads, and leave the apostrophe right where it was. The real reason I quit my job was not to spend more time with my young children – it was because if I had to see “KPI’s” on a Powerpoint presentation one more time I may have caused harm to myself or others.
But my escape plan backfired.
I now have a 6 year old daughter who knows enough about apostrophes to use them, but not enough to use them properly. To give her credit, she is an excellent writer. She loves it. Her spelling could use some work, her idea of good descriptive prose is to use approximately twelve adjectives to describe a single noun, and the twists and turns of her stories are the stuff of wild dreams (or nightmares). All of this is incredibly cute and endearing.
But when I first saw her apostrophise a plural, something inside of me died.
I can’t recall the exact sentence – I may have blocked it out. But I’m sure it was something along the lines of “Many unicorn’s flew over the forest.” Gasp.
No doubt apostrophe rules won’t appear in her curriculum for a few years yet, so in the meantime I have attempted to give her a very short and simple lesson. But society is working relentlessly against me:
Luckily, Hubby is an apostrophe purist too – by which I mean he also only likes to use apostrophes in the correct manner. My sister is the same way – I once accidentally sent her a text message with “it’s” instead of “its” and she replied immediately with a correction and a “please explain”.
With such solid influences around her, I’m sure our daughter will come through her early apostrophe confusion unscathed.
Plus, I have devised a new game: Whoever sees a misused apostrophe and is the first to yell out “PREPOSTROPHE!” gets some M&M’s…