So I have a gripe. A grammarian gripe, if you will. A punctuation protestation.
I’m pissed off. I’m aghast. I’m fed up. I’m THIS CLOSE to giving an unsuspecting passer-by a good slap. And you, lucky readers, are about to hear all about it.
Read that sentence again. Take particular note of the plural: readers. Now look closely. Is there an apostrophe in there? Do you see “reader’s”?
No. But Holy Mary Mother of God, it’s about the only place online at the moment where an apostrophe is not used to make a plural.
CD’s. Video’s. The Johnson’s. Blog post’s. Book’s. Orange’s.
As the marvelous Lynne Truss says in
The Bible that glorious tribute to proper punctuation, Eats, Shoots & Leaves (don’t get me started on the lack of Oxford comma there: that’s for another blog post):
“If this Satanic sprinkling of redundant apostrophes causes no little gasp of horror or quickening of the pulse, you should probably [stop reading this blog post] at once.”
She goes on:
“For any true stickler, you see, the sight of the plural word ‘Book’s’ with an apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages of bereavement, though greatly accelerated. First there is shock. Within seconds, shock gives way to disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger. Finally, (and this is where the analogy breaks down), anger gives way to a righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage with the aid of permanent marker.”
It’s me. I am that “true stickler”. And I’m writing this with a permanent marker tucked behind my ear, fully inked, half uncapped, and trembling ever so slightly with anticipation.
Here it is, people. Listen closely. Never make a word plural by using an apostrophe. Never. Not a surname, not a word ending in a vowel, not an abbreviation, not anything. NEVER.
Is my gripe over yet? Nope. Next up:
Your welcome. Your going to love this. If your a loser, come right this way. (Actually, please don’t, or I WILL slap you.)
I lose count of how many times I see this, and variations on the theme, every day. Every. Single. Day. I can’t scroll through Facebook without a sudden intake of breath or furious teeth-suck with every finger swipe. And don’t get me started on online dating. For sticklers like me who for the first time wander unsuspecting into Tinder or Bumble land, dictionaries at the ready (but covered in plain brown paper because, you know, a date would be nice and we don’t want to scare them off immediately), it’s at once a disheartening reality check (Oh Good God I will never ever date again because how could I possibly fancy someone who writes “Your cute”?) and a reminder that actually, it’s rather wonderful to be single and who needs a date when you’ve got The Crown and RuPaul’s Drag Race to binge watch (with the sub-titles switched on because A. you can’t hear over your Dorito crunching and B. THEY’RE SO GODDAMN GRAMMATICALLY PERFECT).
Here it is, people. Listen closely. You’re = You are. Your = possessive.
And while I’m at it: It’s = It is. Its = possessive. Yes, yes, it’s an exception to the possessive rule. But THAT SHOULD MAKE IT EASIER TO REMEMBER.
Once a (very brave) man messaged me: “How are you beautiful?” I answered: “I don’t know. I was just born that way, I guess.”
OK, so it was a missing comma, not a misplaced apostrophe. But when it comes to linguistic flirting fails I’m vicious. Plus I was hangry at the time.
Why am I still ranting? Because although bad grammar and improper punctuation has been around for a loooong time, it seems to me that it’s getting progressively worse. We text, we chuck out quick messages, we rush to caption on Insta, we (aka men on Tinder) want to get laid ASAP and no way is proper punctuation going to stand in our way. (Actually, it will if they match with me, but I’m a stickler like that. A dateless stickler, clearly. But I’ll always have Bianca Del Rio. And corn chips.)
Look, I’m actually rather sensible about this whole language thing, believe it or not. I know it evolves. I know we need to adapt. When I proofread, I know when to leave things alone because the meaning is clear and that’s enough. In other words, I don’t sledgehammer my way through every manuscript, blindly beating sentences into submission just to prove a point. (Clearly, I reserve that for online dating.) I understand the need to be flexible.
But. Punctuation is important, and I care about it, and so should we all. I’ll leave you with Lynne Truss:
“The reason it’s worth standing up for punctuation is not that it’s an arbitrary system of notation known only to an over-sensible elite who have attacks of the vapours when they see it misapplied. The reason to stand up for punctuation is that without it there is no reliable way of communicating meaning. Punctuation herds words together, keeps others apart. Punctuation directs you how to read, in the way musical notation directs a musician how to play.”