I’ve known for years that it surrounds me.
The flagrant misuse of apostrophes envelops my eyes, my mind, my very soul like a rancid curtain of wrongness. Others see these transgressions too, and wince on the inside. Like me, they know.
And like me, they know it’s so tough to do anything about it. We are not fighting a losing battle, but it is a sustained conflict of ideologies. On the one side, people who care that things are done right (and when I say things, I mean the Engish language). On the other, people who’re too sloppy to really care, or who’ve never made the effort to learn, or just not been taught. Not necessarily their fault, but that doesn’t make it any easier to witness.
We are communicators. Communication matters to us because it is the air that we breathe. So language matters to us. And the apostrophe might be the little guy of language, but he really matters. Without him, things can change or lose their meaning. So a.) have some sympathy and b.) do your bit.
I’m not deluded into believing that a single blog post will change this, but I am optimistic that if PR people get their heads around the apostrophe and do their utmost to get it right, together we stand at least a slim chance of educating others. One simple, misunderstood, abused and world-weary little punctuation mark at a time.
But to get started, let’s look at the error that I see each day, all around me, that can be fixed as easily as, well, not bloody doing it in the first place. Just leave it out.
It is not 50’s or 1980’s. It is 50s and 1980s. Unless of course, with the latter example, you’re referring to something that occured in the year 1980. But you get my point hopefully.
Why would a plural figure need an apostrophe? Why? My guess is that someone bottled it once, thought it looked right and people started following like sheep.
Look where we are now.
Anyway, rant over. Think about it. We wield influence, so let’s try to use it wisely.
If we can at least start with dates and get those right, then perhaps use apostrophes correctly elsewhere, and even use correct punctuation writ-large, then our language must stand a fighting chance. Apostrophe’s loss could be our gain.