It’s just NOT that difficult!

As I was thumbing through a coupon book this week, I noticed an offer that almost set my hair on fire. A popular seafood restaurant offered a special targeted to the “Mom’s” in the area.  The copy should have read “For the moms in the area.” (The establishment remains nameless to protect the uninformed. You know who you are.) WHAT?  Surely, the ad designer meant to promote the eatery to more than one mother.

For the record: apostrophes have several useful purposes. The two most common include showing ownership and indicating the omission of letters.  That rule seems clear enough, as in the following sentence: It’s six o’clock, and I’m about to put my family’s dinner on the table.  The first three apostrophes indicate letter omission, and the last shows possession.  Compare that sentence to the following:  It’s seven o’clock, so most of us are washing our families’ dishes.  Notice how the plural possessive differs from the singular form—families’ vs. family’s.  Admittedly, grammar and punctuation rules often have exceptions, as in: We’re hoping to have the children’s homework assignments completed before my boss’s teleconference.  Whew!

Another common abuse of apostrophes appears with the possessive pronoun, particularly the word “its.” People who would never dare to write his’s, her’s, their’s, or our’s  to indicate ownership readily interchange it’s for its.  Why?   Here’s a simple rule: Possessive pronouns NEVER use apostrophes. That rule is as unambiguous as one can find in English, yet one of the most abused.  The word it’s remains the contraction, (shortened form) of the words it is. Yet look around to find various misuses of these two words: “HOHO’S is having it’s annual sale!  Its time for saving’s at HOHO’S department store!”  YIKES!

Can you find the errors in the following sentence? Avoid sending cards’ with unnecessary apostrophe’s!   Remember: An apostrophe is not merely decorative, placed hither and yon to adorn letters and cards.  It does serve a purpose, and that is NOT to form the plurals of words and names.  Now the comma, on the other hand . . . Ah, but that’s a tale for another time. 

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