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Resource for proper use of apostrophes in English
Thread poster: Christina Gisselberg Skaskiw
Christina Gisselberg Skaskiw  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:48
English to Swedish
+ ...
Dec 10, 2010

Hi all,

I just learned about the Apostrophe Protection Society. They have a site with information on the proper use of apostrophes in English. Up until now I've been wondering whether it was correct to use an apostrophe to form plural of abbreviations, like CD. Well, it's not; it should be CDs.

Here's a link http://www.apostrophe.org.uk/index.htm

All the best,
Christina


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Gilla Evans  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:48
Spanish to English
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adsolutely agree Dec 10, 2010

There is no justification for using an apostrophe to pluralise CDs, DVDs, etc. (or 1960s, 70s, etc.)

It's what is popularly known as the "greengrocer's apostrophe" from the propensity of greengrocers in the UK to sell "potato's, cabbage's and bean's"...


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Amy Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
Italian to English
+ ...
Is English moving on? Dec 10, 2010

Bit of a different tack here, but the vast majority of people I come into contact with in my day-to-day life use "your" instead of "you're" (texting and instant messaging, etc.); I think I'm probably in the minority now using "you're" (?!). I used to be militant about proper apostrophe usage but now I accept that this may be the way our language is heading (not that I'm going to follow suit any time soon). We don't write now like Chaucer did back then, so...

I saw a great example of how not to do apostrophes this morning on a board outside a paper shop:

"Get You're Mobile Top-ups Here!!!"

Have a good day all,
Amy


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
Swedish to English
+ ...
Ex-greengrocer? Dec 10, 2010

Amy Williams wrote:

I saw a great example of how not to do apostrophes this morning on a board outside a paper shop:

"Get You're Mobile Top-ups Here!!!"

I know they owner, he used to sell fruit and veg.


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Amy Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
Italian to English
+ ...
Resource for proper use of apostrophes in English Dec 10, 2010

Madeleine MacRae Klintebo wrote:

I know they owner, he used to sell fruit and veg.


!!


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Christina Gisselberg Skaskiw  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:48
English to Swedish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Apostrophes in instant messages Dec 10, 2010

Amy Williams wrote:

Bit of a different tack here, but the vast majority of people I come into contact with in my day-to-day life use "your" instead of "you're" (texting and instant messaging, etc.);


Well, languages do keep evolving, don't they, and I think with the advent of instant messaging, sms, and similar, abbreviated and simplified ways of writing are acceptable evolutions, as long as the meaning is clear. My phone will correct 'youre' to 'you're' for me, but if it didn't, I think I would write 'youre' rather than 'your' -- or even 'u r' -- because of the different meanings.

I also prefer all lower case letters; it's easier and looks, to me, more appropriate for the medium. However, again my phone will try to help, so I end up with capital Is and corrections for words like 'Monday' and 'London' even though I'd prefer not to.

c u l8r

Christina


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:48
Member (2007)
English
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French vs English Dec 10, 2010

Here in France, every word that looks vaguely English gets an apostrophe if it ends in "s". So, the plural of "croissant" is "croissants" but the plural of "sandwich" (now, at least unofficially, a French word) is very often spelt "sandwich's"

On the other hand, I saw a magazine lately (I think it was a local expat one) that had made the editorial decision to avoid any further "faux pas" involving apostrophes ... by removing each and every one! An official apostrophe-free zone - and very odd reading it makes too! I'm not pedantic about these things but "Im" just doesn't do it for me.


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Dec 10, 2010

Gilla Evans wrote:

There is no justification for using an apostrophe to pluralise CDs, DVDs, etc. (or 1960s, 70s, etc.)


Actually, Gilla, it's acceptable in US English. The New York Times does it with examples like those you mention.


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
French to English
+ ...
"the proper use"...? Dec 10, 2010

Christina Skaskiw wrote:
I just learned about the Apostrophe Protection Society. They have a site with information on the proper use of apostrophes in English


You make it sound like they're directly funded by God or something. This and other web sites will give you particular people's opinions about how *they* SUGGEST using the apostrophe, and you're free to decide whether or not you wish to follow their suggestions...!


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Neil Dec 10, 2010

I don't agree. I'm not one of those old fogeys that tut-tuts about linguistic change, but "proper" use of conventions like these is a matter of consensus, not arbitrary opinion. The vast majority of good writers would agree that a phrase like "greengrocers apostrophe" is wrong. One day, that consensus may change, but until then it's non-standard English.

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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
French to English
+ ...
Consensus Dec 11, 2010

philgoddard wrote:
I don't agree. I'm not one of those old fogeys that tut-tuts about linguistic change, but "proper" use of conventions like these is a matter of consensus, not arbitrary opinion. The vast majority of good writers would agree that a phrase like "greengrocers apostrophe" is wrong.


That's fine for cases where there's actual consensus. Beware of cases where there isn't consensus, but the web site/commentator makes it sound as though there is, or doesn't present any actual data either way...


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Illiteracy Dec 11, 2010

I think it's important to say at this point that there's a significant difference between linguistic evolution on the one hand, and illiteracy on the other.

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Cetacea  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 19:48
English to German
+ ...
Well put! Dec 12, 2010

Tom in London wrote:
I think it's important to say at this point that there's a significant difference between linguistic evolution on the one hand, and illiteracy on the other.


It's all very well to be using what Christina calls "simplified writing" when texting (in English or any other language)--as long as you know it's "simplified" and are able to speak and write correctly in any other situation. Linguistic rules aren't rules for rules' sake, they enable people to understand what others are saying and being understood in return. Which is pretty important in my opinion.


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
French to English
+ ...
Intelligibility argument is over-egged Dec 12, 2010

Cetacea wrote:
Linguistic rules aren't rules for rules' sake, they enable people to understand what others are saying and being understood in return. Which is pretty important in my opinion.


First, don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that our clients want us to use apostrophes unconventionally in cases where there is a clear convention.

But, the intelligibility argument for apostrophes and indeed many other prescriptive conventions is actually fairly weak. If you look at your favourite list of apostrophe rules, you'll probably find:

- the author doesn't actually point to a real-life case where a "mistake" with an apostrophe led to a genuine misunderstanding (when your greengrocer writes "tomato's 50p", nobody seriously actually believes they're talking about 50p belonging to a tomato-- eveybody understands perfectly well what is meant)
- the author will probably cite various examples from literature/newspapers etc said to be "mistaken" usage, but mysteriously the author is still to understand the intended meaning, because they're able to offer a "correction"


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Eats shoots and leaves Dec 12, 2010

Recommended reading: Lynne Truss "Eats shoots and leaves"

http://tinyurl.com/38wljmz

In the housing development where I live there is a large meeting room where all the tenants can organise events etc. On the posters, this room is invariably referred to as "The Tenants Hall".

I sometimes feel like suggesting that whilst I can easily believe that the tenants do a lot of heavy moving with large goods vehicles, perhaps the spelling of "haul" needs to be corrected.

[Edited at 2010-12-13 07:14 GMT]


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