back to article Half of Brits abuse apostrophe's

Linguistic doommongers look away now: A survey has shown that almost half of Brits haven't got a clue how to use the possessive apostrophe correctly, with the most common lapse being the inability to "punctuate a possessive plural". That's according to the Telegraph, which cites an independent poll of nearly 2,000 carried out by …

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Boffin

The poor state of professorship

Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at University College London .. suggested ... we could ... leave a space... Have we really nothing better to do with our lives than fret about the apostrophe?

Replacing a mark in a specific place with a space in a specific place doesn't solve the problem at all. Perhaps we should fret more regarding how dipsticks like this got to be professors.

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it ain't easy

When do you put an extra 's after a world that ends in "s". Etc.

Lots of the rules don't really make sense. They were latin rule shoehorning beside a germanic construct with french words added in for good measure. In an arabic alphabet. Modified to fit in with what was figured at the time to be acceptable and agreeable.

Of course people get it wrong. We're trying to obey a "law" that has so many "unless" or "except" clauses punching holes in it, you have to be an English Major to have remembered them all.

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Stop

Use a space instead!!

What difference would be substituting one character for that of another?

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Anonymous Coward

"Half of Brits abuse apostrophe's"

Don't do that.

[twitch]

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Anonymous Coward

Its a shame

Yet at the same time I can't but recall that the convention was either unsettled or simply different in the late 19th Century, e.g. the contraction of "will not" given as "wo'n't".

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Unhappy

Not very well

There is one particular culprit in my office who doesn't seem to EVER use the apostrophe, never mind misuse it. It takes a bit of getting using to the things he says "ill" do.

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Unhappy

Photo's

How can this misuse not be number 1?

As in (on a sign): "Develop you're (natch) photo's here"

"Half price orange's and apple's"

aaargh!

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Anonymous Coward

People's Princess

If the apostrophe in "people's" is supposed to go before the S because "people" is already plural, why does it still go after the S in children? (e.g., "the childrens' hats")

"Children" is the plural or child, just as "people" is the plural of person.

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Thumb Up

bugbear

Just about my biggest bugbear with the world's apparent growing illiteracy is the inabiltity of people to differentiate between the words "lose" and "loose"... the former being another word for misplace, the latter being used to describe a knot shortly before I tighten it around their scrawny little illiterate necks!

the internet: My god! It's full of tards!

/rant

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Han's orft mi apostrophe's

My apostrophe's what?

Mulvey, get out of it. Apostrophes, correctly used, are helpful components of punctuation. Their eradication would be a loss of clarity, even if only for moments at a time, as the reader strugles to determine which 's' that is at the end of the word. As it stands, this discombombulation only occurs when the ' is incorrectly applied; without it, every plural could potentially be a possessive, and vice-versa.

Who spells "his" or "hers" "hi's" or "her's"? No one., and "its" (possessive is exactly the same. If kids were taught this similarity, the confusion would vanish. I had to learn to follow the rules by rote, but it would have been easier to have been told this at an early stage.

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Anonymous Coward

Thank's for that.

Its great to see article's that pick up on this. Its one of my pet hate's.

What? Whys everyone laughing at me?

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Flame

Eh?

Professor Christopher Mulvey ... lamented: "...To get it right, you need to look up the rules every time you think an apostrophe might be needed - and do this for the next six months in order to 'internalise' the rules."

I would like to commend the good Professor on becoming one, given that it must have taken him a good number of decades to learn even the most basic academia. Six months to learn some grammar?!

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Coat

There's that word again!

Internalise! It's everywhere these days - it's probably correct and is certainly beloved by educators across the land but in my eyes it's almost as bad as the rampant verbification and suffixage that has overrun the English language.

Mine's the one with the shortlist of words for inclusion in the next edition of the OED in the pocket.

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Countdown...

Until the first "clever" reader comments to correct the incorrect apostrophes in the title/sub title?

I'd say < 2 mins!

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Hmm

As an alternative to learning how to use a stupid punctuation character we could switch to a language where possession is indicated by a consistent suffix. Finnish for instance. English is a piss poor language, and I'm convinced that the only reason it is so widely spoken is because of historical accident rather than any linguistic superiority. Most other languages I'm familiar with have a way to indicate whether a vowel is a front or back vowel, avoiding pronunciation differences with words like bath.

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Silver badge

They should be Trussed up

for making mistakes like that - or perhaps eaten, shot and left :-)

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Funny...

I have never found the English apostrophe rules very confusing but for me, the English language is an acquired skill so it's just another rule I've had to learn.

When I was in school, we started taking English classes at ten years of age and, if anything, the teachers were a bit too good at what they taught because lots of people carry the apostrophe use over to our native language (Swedish) where it has no place whatsoever.

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Stop

Sign of the times

"Rather agreeably, the 55+ age range came bottom of the class nationwide, while 25 to 34-year-olds managed to match the capital with 78 per cent of correct answers - surprising, the Telegraph notes, since the latter have not had the benefit of the "proper" old-school grammar guidance enjoyed by the former."

How rude. Do they think that schools have gone downhill so much these days that they are full of chavs like Vicky Pollard, who only turn up and write their name on the exam paper to get an A*?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7481715.stm

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Paris Hilton

enough " ' " s already

I just spent 20 minutes reading the grammer rules for apostrophes on wiki how. That fella that said lets just forget the apostrophe had the right idea.

Its a living language and I'll use it any way I want to, henceforeward I will decline the use of apostrophes and I urge you all to do the same.

Paris 'cos she knows when it's is a possesive pronoun !

er...damn

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Seen in Boots ...

"Kid's medicines"

Poor kid.

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Paris Hilton

Hopeless state of the English language?

Sorry, Prof. Wells, but I do not see where this hopeless state exists. A number of years ago I had absolutely no problem at all knowing where the apostrophe should be used, but now after as many years of seeing it used incorrectly, I often find myself double-checking usage. Sadly, poor grammar and punctuation makes it into popular and mainstream media and press, and pointing it out only arouses ire.

I have been told that the English language is one of the harder languages in the world to learn, perhaps lending to its immense ability for absorption and flexibility. Though I still find accent rules for Spanish a little more difficult than English punctuation, though I am sure I have called myself out as an idiot for those who perfectly understand the former.

Paris, English as a first and-a-half language.

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best aberrant apostrophisation ever

Local caff:

Eel Pie Island Caf'e

Yes that's right: no accent on the "e" but an apostrophe between it and the preceding "f"

Brilliant!

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Coat

Spelling error? Or a Merkin in the house?

Surely the word "internalise" in Prof Mulvey's quote has been misspelt. I think the correct spelling might be R-E-M-E-M-B-E-R.

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Anonymous Coward

So

What's the problem. It's not like it's important or anything. These English prof's should worry more about txt'ing spelling rather than how everyone write's normally.

Spot the error's above !!!!!

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Anonymous Coward

It's easy!!

It really is incredibly easy, people just need to think about it.

Basically, an apostrophe is only used to denote missing letters or possession, but NEVER to denote a multiple. (Unless it's to denote multiples of something ending in an "s")

OK, maybe it is a bit complicated. Here are the rules http://www.apostrophe.fsnet.co.uk/

People mixing up they're, there and their really does my head in though.

They're = They are

Their = belonging to

There = location.

e.g. Their bag is over there. They're in the toilet.

P1ss easy.

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Anonymous Coward

It really isn't hard.

People managed perfectly well with the apostrophe in the past.

People are just lazy and ignorant.

Just because people cannot be arsed to use an apostrophe correctly does not mean it should be scrubbed from the language, or is this what British Education has come down to?

People cannot be bothered to learn something so therefore we must no longer teach it?

No wonder education in schools is so dire these days.

And, if you really, really struggle with the apostrophe, then stop abbreviating and speak properly in the first place.

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Anonymous Coward

Lazyness

It's just lazyness, we shouldn't be dumbing-down our language just because a sizeable proportion of the population are too lazy or too stupid to write correctly.

As for just leaving it out, we'll be well shot of any idiot that suggests that.

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Pirate

Of *course* we have better things to do than fret about the apostrophe.

We can rant about "less" and "fewer" instead.

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Stop

Must be wrong

This simply cannot be true: after all, Ed "Talking" Balls has assured us that educational standards have risen exponentially and inexorably ever since NuLab took charge of education in this country.

I simply cannot believe that a government minister could be so wrong; and to suggest that they are sophists, or deliberately telling us untruths is blatantly an act of treason.

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Joke

Its a national disgrace

joke over

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A Voice-To-Text outfit conducted this survey?

Perhaps the problem's lie in their software, rather than in the method's that people use to express' themselves' to any survey's out there.

(I too bemoan the loss of our apostrophe's. This hurt to type.)

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Paris Hilton

It's simple

Keep it in there... it allows us to determine the intelligence of the author.

It's really simple... in possessive plurality, if a word ends with 's', the apostrophe comes after; otherwise it's before the 's'.

Non-possessive plurality does not need an apostrophe.

In other cases, the apostrophe indicates one of more missing letters, so it's location is obvious: they're is short for 'they are', so the apostrophe replaces the ' a'; similarly 'it's' is short for 'it is' - a replacement of the ' i'.

Now! what! about! the! exclamation! mark!?! Surely! that's! a! better! candidate! for! deletion!!!

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B

In related news . . .

over half of Brits DO know how to use an apostrophe. Why is this newsworthy again?

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Coat

This isn't really news...

...as the readers of the Usenet group alt.possessive.its.has.no.apostrophe know all too well!

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Londoners...

The success Londoners have with apostrophes arise from the hopeless state of their pronunciation. Dropped letters and glottal stops all over the shop. The more you use 'em in other contexts the more you're likely to get your head round their possessive use.

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Stop

Learn from Bob!

As a former teacher of English as a foreign language, and part-time online grammar nazi, this news saddens me. We could all learn a thing or two from Bob's attitude towards grammar.

http://www.theworldaccordingtokang.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/11/bob-the-angry-flower.gif

http://www.angryflower.com/plural.gif

http://www.angryflower.com/destro.gif

http://www.angryflower.com/itsits.gif

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Stop

crazy

we'll becomes we ll? What's wrong with we will?

ur wrong I tells ya.

I always wanted to know why it's its and not its'.

And why do we always blindly put the punctuation inside the quotes?

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IT Angle

What's the plural of CV

If you have more than one cat, you don't write it as cat's. If you have more than one car you don't write it as car's. Why then do the vast majority of people insist on writing CV's instead of CVs. You can just about be forgiven for confusing it's and its, but why cock up a straight forward plural?

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Anonymous Coward

Good article

I look forward to reading the review from amanfromMar's

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Coat

That Profesur emerishus whassisname bloke

Don't give him any more exposure, please!

Also, the apostrophe isn't that hard to use!

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A title is required. Why?

Next time someone misuses you're as "your silly", answer them with "My silly?".

It's guaranteed to confuse them.

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Coat

@ It's simple

>In other cases, the apostrophe indicates one of more missing letters, so it's location is obvious: they're is short for 'they are', so the apostrophe replaces the ' a'; similarly 'it's' is short for 'it is' - a replacement of the ' i'.

"so its location", not "so it is location".

Mine's the one without the primed petard in the pocket.

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Alert

Peadophiles...

Ok not really, but what is the name for an apostrophe abuser? [apostrophiles?] and can we get the daily wail on the case? we'd all be safe then... they'd be harrassed from society.

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Anonymous Coward

@Random Noise : Photo's

>How can this misuse not be number 1?

Perhaps because "photo" is an abbreviation of "photograph" thus the apostrophe

is indicating omission?

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Alert

re. AC

"If the apostrophe in "people's" is supposed to go before the S because "people" is already plural, why does it still go after the S in children? (e.g., "the childrens' hats")

"Children" is the plural or child, just as "people" is the plural of person."

because your a idiot? its "children's hats"

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Coat

My local gym...

... is advertising a new Pilate's class.

Someone was heard to comment that perhaps you should wash your hands after it... ;-)

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Dead Vulture

Just seen on The Register...

"Hosted CRM gives SME's big-business customer management"

Gives it to whom, I ask.

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Let's take it to the logical conclusion

andstopusuingallformsofgrammaraltogetherimeanitsonlysomethingthatsinventedbyteacherstokeeptheminjobsanditdoesntmetterintherealworldormakeanythingeasiertoreadsowhybother?

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My biggest bugbear...

...is that the greengrocers' apostrophe has escaped into the wild and can be found infesting the media section of Tesco like a particularly nasty boll weevil resulting in horrors like [and look away now if you're easily scared]

CD's and DVD's.

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