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 …

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  1. Whitter
    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.

  2. Mark

    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.

  3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  4. Toby Rose
    Stop

    Use a space instead!!

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

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Half of Brits abuse apostrophe's"

    Don't do that.

    [twitch]

  6. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    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".

  7. Marc
    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.

  8. Random Noise
    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!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  10. Steve Mason
    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

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    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.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    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?

  13. Jimmy Floyd
    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?!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  15. Matt

    Countdown...

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

    I'd say < 2 mins!

  16. Chris

    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.

  17. alain williams Silver badge

    They should be Trussed up

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

  18. nick.se

    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.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    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

  20. eWill
    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

  21. Nano nano

    Seen in Boots ...

    "Kid's medicines"

    Poor kid.

  22. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    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.

  23. Roy Stilling

    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!

  24. Mister_C
    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.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    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 !!!!!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

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

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

  30. Ted Treen
    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.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Its a national disgrace

    joke over

  32. Steven

    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.)

  33. Anonymous Coward
    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!!!

  34. B

    In related news . . .

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

  35. Chika
    Coat

    This isn't really news...

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

  36. Richard

    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.

  37. Jason Togneri
    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

  38. Anonymous Coward
    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?

  39. Dr Who
    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?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good article

    I look forward to reading the review from amanfromMar's

  41. Adam Foxton
    Coat

    That Profesur emerishus whassisname bloke

    Don't give him any more exposure, please!

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

  42. Poopie McStinklestein

    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.

  43. Metalattakk
    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.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    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?

  46. Dan Cooke
    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"

  47. Graham Marsden
    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... ;-)

  48. Matthew Henry
    Dead Vulture

    Just seen on The Register...

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

    Gives it to whom, I ask.

  49. Pete Silver badge

    Let's take it to the logical conclusion

    andstopusuingallformsofgrammaraltogetherimeanitsonlysomethingthatsinventedbyteacherstokeeptheminjobsanditdoesntmetterintherealworldormakeanythingeasiertoreadsowhybother?

  50. Mike Richards Silver badge

    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.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Learning from Bob

    So where's my genetically engineered headless cow (no brain = no suffering) then?

  52. Mike

    Re: What's the plural of CV

    You would think that the plural of CV is CVs, but the plural of curriculum vitae is curricula vitae*, which of course has the initals CV which, therefore, as an abreviation is obviously a plural, (perhaps more correctly C.V. is singular and plural).

    * Yes, this is corect before we start a "Life of Brian" argument.

  53. Nano nano

    why does it still go after the S in children

    It doesn't

  54. Paul M

    Except...

    Going by the logic of apostrophes replacing missing letters, we should be spelling the contraction of "will not" as "w'n't" or some such thing. Or "shall not" as "sha'n't".

    Go on - add yet another rule to the rules.

    Personally I love the complexity of English - it adds texture. Just think how boring languages like, well... most others where specific combinations of letters are always pronounced the same.

  55. Si

    The mistake that pisses me off the most...

    ... is the your/you're one. I'm really sick of seeing it. The level of illiteracy in this country is worrying.

  56. Haku
    Coat

    Lunchtime...

    Anyone want some FISH AND CHIP'S ?

  57. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    is it just me? well, yes,actually

    I get annoyed when people say "single quote" meaning to use an apostrophe. Sorry, I'll quit my whinging now.

    Did I miss the IT angle?

  58. Tom

    The English Language is constantly changing

    The language is evolving, it is not the same language it was 100 years ago, and certainly not the same language it was 400 years ago. Why can some people not accept this?

    Just as the words ‘Thou’ and ‘Thee’ have dropped out of use, why should the apostrophe not drop out of use, or at least have the rules of its use simplified?

    There is a similar issue in Welsh where in some, mainly-English speaking, places the rules for initial consonant mutation are not being followed. Phrases such as ‘yn Cymru’ (in Wales) should be ‘yng Nghumru’.

  59. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Pirate

    Oh yes....

    I know the language is supposed to adapt, but when you've had 12 years of some nutcase shouting at you to get it right, it's hard to change overnight.

    Their, they're and there are very annoying, as are its and it's and of course your and you're, but there are two major language corruptions, that I simply cannot stand.

    1. It's not, "He GOES to me, ' This and that.'.". It's "He SAID to me, 'This and that.'.".

    2. It's not, "I'm like, 'No way!'". It's, "I said, 'No way!'.".

    I only passed English at GCSE level, so I am certainly no expert!

  60. Tim
    Happy

    @Dr(.) Who

    You are right. but not for the reasons you think.

    The apostrophe is correctly used in plurals of an abbreviation (though it is a matter of style and usage varies). One MPV, two MPV's.

    One CV, two CV's? Not quite. The fully written out plural of 'curriculum vitae' is 'curricula vitae', not 'vitaes', so there's no S on the end to justify the apostrophe. In this case, the plural is of "CV" in its own right, so no apostrophe is needed. CVs.

    What about "MPV's" - Multi Purpose Vehicles? That is correctly written as MPV's because you're leaving out letters between the V and the s. How about WMDs? Weapons of Mass Destruction. There's no S at the end, so no apostrophe.

    Glad I'm not foreign.

  61. Tom Ware

    I never abuse the apostrophe...

    ...although I occasionally violate the colon.

  62. john brennand

    best example of apostrophe use

    The example I used to teach my youngsters the use of the possessive apostrophe is to write the sentence below and then add the apostrophe.

    There was no food in the refrigerator so I ate the dogs.

    There was no food in the refrigerator so I ate the dog's.

    John

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could be worse

    At least when I'm introduced to people I don't have to answer the question "and what do you do for a living?" with "Professor of Phonetics". I bet that's a conversation stopper, poor chap!

  64. RaelianWingnut
    Coat

    @Steve Mason

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

    Actually, the internets constitutes a self-selecting group of those people can a) buy a computer, b) keep it connected for long enough to express an opinion and c) express an opinion, however incoherently.

    So, in relative terms, perhaps not quite so tardy. I realise this is damning our world with faint praise, but sometimes faint praise is better than none at all. You should therefore perhaps get off that parental/critical high horse and be *happy*.

    :-)

  65. Gordon
    Alert

    Beware the feral apostrophe

    The inadvertent inclusion of an apostrophe is not always the fault of the writer. Apostrophes are devious, and will infiltrate your writing without you even noticing. A sort of grammatical trojan.

    As for CV's / CVs, the apostrophe there is pointing out that the letters i t a & e are missing between the V and the s.

    For another contentious issue, also look at the feral full stop [period] that often appears at the end of contractions, when it only belongs at the end of abbreviations.

  66. Owen Sweeney

    @ Adam Foxton

    May I direct you to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exclamation_mark

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about

    What about people who abuse the ellipsis? That really gets on my... tits.

  68. Torben Mogensen

    @Mark (Re: It ain't easy)

    The English language uses a Latin (not Arabic) alphabet. The numbers are Arabic, though.

    But, yes, it is a complicated language to learn to use correctly. Thankfully, it doesn't have verbs that are inflected by person and affected by context (accusative, ablative, etc.) such as you see in Latin languages (or German). But the English language is much too widespread to hope for any clean-up. Much like the C programming language. :-)

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Your You're

    Surely inccorect usage of "your" instead of "you're" is the most frequent abuse of the apostrophe and grammar?

  70. Alan Potter

    CV's and Photo's

    There's an apostrophe in both those places because they are indicating missing letters. Of course, if we were being truly pedantic, CV's should be something like C.V.s.

    And the next question is, if you're asking a question where you are quoting someone, even though they didn't ask a question, where does the question mark go? Especially when their quote finished with punctuation.

    For example, Adam Foxton's post "The Profesur <sic> emerishus <sic>..." etc finishes by saying "Also, the apostrophe isn't that hard to use!" - Suppose I want to disagree with him which, I don't really, in this thread, but I shall use it as an example.

    So what I want to ask is: "Can you believe Foxton wrote 'Also the apostrophe isn't that hard to use!'?"

    That looks a mess from a punctuation point of view. Maybe it just needs a space or two...

    BTW Using too many asterisks caused someone to invent a "flabbergasterisk".

  71. Steve
    Boffin

    @ Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Ole-Biscuitbarrel

    Are you by chance any relation to Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-WHIN-BIN-BIN-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Ole-Biscuitbarrel?

    I can't stand Python abuse.

  72. David Nash Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Plurals of abbreviations

    I always thought I knew all the apostrophe rules - and used them properly . But I've learned something today: Abbreviations like "PC" need an apostrophe, meaning that "PC's" is correct? I have been guilty of correcting people over that one!

    But what about "P.C." with the dots? Does the dot remove the need for the apostrophe? ie. "P.C.s"? Shouldn't "PC" be "P.C." anyway, meaning that "PCs" or "PC's" are just wrong?

    Unhappy icon because it seems I was wrong. Or should I have chosen the happy one because I've learned something?

  73. Ben
    Boffin

    CV

    "Curricula vitae" would be correct if you're speaking in Latin, but in English it tends to be abbreviated to a non-latin "CV". In this case, slapping the standard English plural on it makes perfectly logical sense (although I'll sit on the fence as regards the use of the infamous flying comma).

    Oh, and for the person who doesn't know about photo's being a correct form of photoGRAPHs; either photos or photo's is acceptable since photo is commonly used and understood as a correct morpheme. So naaah.

  74. John Savard Silver badge

    There is an IT angle

    Because computer terminals were based on typewriters instead of typesetting machines, a symmetrical character which substitutes both for the opening single quote on the one hand, and the closing single quote or the apostrophe on the other hand, was included in most computer character sets, such as BCDIC, EBCDIC, and the original 1964 capital-letters-only version of ASCII. When they got around to adding minuscules to ASCII, they did add a character intended to be the opening single quote, but by then it was too late to make the existing character no longer typewriter-like and symmetrical, because it would make old texts look bad when printed.

  75. Neoc

    Lazyness

    Funny thing is - as a person for whom English is a second language, I seem to know its rules better than the average "native" speaker.

    As for dropping the " ' ", I think it's an idea perpetrated by those who couldn't be bothered. Frankly, if you cannot do something as simple as deal with the English language, you should not have the right to "voice" an opinion. (ditto with "automatic-only" driving licenses, BTW. If you can't handle a stick-shift for your *test*, what the hell are you doing on the roads? Medical conditions notwithstanding, of course)

  76. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @The English Language is constantly changing

    > The language is evolving, it is not the same language it was 100 years ago, and certainly not the same language it was 400 years ago. Why can some people not accept this?

    Duh.

    Sorry. Let me write a more reasoned response. Duh. U R teh dumb.

    Sorry. Haven't quite got it out of my system. Let me try one more time...

    The rules for using apostrophes are dead simple. You have the (singular, plural) possessive case (the dog's bollocks, the dogs' bollocks, respectively) and you have the contractive case (Tom doesn't get this, Tom isn't too good at English, It's probably the fault of his teachers). Then you have two common mistakes: putting an apostrophe in a straight plural (the so-called Grocers' apostrophe) and putting one into the possessive pronouns"its". "Its" (of or belonging to it) belongs in the same group of words as "mine", "yours", "his", "hers", "our" and "their" and none of them take apostrophes. Mistaking "their" for "they're" is almost unforgivable.

    Anyway, you say that language evolves and seem to imply that the misuse of apostrophes is somehow excusable on that ground. Unfortunately, what you're describing is devolution, not evolution. If you allow "discretionary" apostrophes you just end up with a mess. Further, it means that you lose the wonderfully parsimonious rules for what apostrophes are and how they should be used, as I've explained above, and you just end up with more confused and illiterate students.

  77. Daniel B.

    Apostrophes or words?

    As someone else mentioned, there's a lot of people who can't differentiate between "lose" and "loose", but I've seen many other things:

    - Would of, Should of ... instead of would've, should've

    - Your / You're confusions

    - The oh-so-common its and it's problem

    I am amazed, as this is something I previously thought only existed with non-native English people; though I got to give English speakers some credit, at least they haven't written Jhon, whit, night, widht, among other spelling mistakes. But I thought "loose" was not a problem for English native speakers!

  78. Alphabet Soup
    Coat

    CV

    <would-be-pedant-mode>

    Isn't it Curricula vitorum? Courses of lives? With the "v" pronounced as a "w" of course.

    Like the Romans, I had a classical education. Mine's the toga with the purple trim.

    </would-be-pedant-mode>

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Favourite quote

    An apostrophe does not mean "Lookout, there is an "S "coming.

  80. Tony Paulazzo
    Happy

    Titles

    >In other cases, the apostrophe indicates one of more missing letters, so it's location is obvious: they're is short for 'they are',<

    Oh noes, better let the dictionaries know they spelt 'don't' wrong immediately. As for the apostrophe, unless it's used as a missing letter (they're, it's, don't etc), I agree, it should be dropped.

    'The dogs bone' vs 'the dogs bones' both look legible and understandable to me whereas 'its looking for a bone' vs 'its bones' doesn't, (bad examples I know).

    The English language is an evolving construct that reflects our own evolution. It could do with a little tidying up, without recourse to 'dumbing' down.

    Double plus good.

  81. Astarte

    >alain williams: Polarisation

    Arguments for and against correct punctuation are often polarised. There appears to be three distinct groups: People who generally understand the punctuation rules, People who are against correctness as a point of principle and a minority which would genuinely like a point clarified.

    For anyone wishing to learn, understand or improve their understanding of such things I strongly recommend Lynn Truss’s wonderful and entertaining book ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’.

    The book's title is derived from text as described here:

    ‘A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

    'Why?' asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

    'Well, I'm a panda', he says, at the door. 'Look it up.

    'The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

    'Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'

    (Copyright acknowledged.)

  82. Matthew Robinson
    Coat

    @bugbear

    You need an ' before 'tards to show the fact that it's missing letters!

    The Internet: My god! It's full of 'tards!

    And Internet is a name so it should get a capital :-)

    *sigh*

  83. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shamed by them from foreign

    Having copped a shoeing of my own for abusing the apostrophe in the last week (and from 'er indoors, a bloody German no less), I'm thinking of suing my Kent grammar school for not being vicious enough all those years ago. My English teacher clearly spent too much time instilling in us that "got" should never, ever be used to get round to such trivia.

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    @Steve

    Yes, my brother has already used that name. Thank you for taking the time to notice the discrepancy, it is nice to know there are at least 2 people on the planet sad enough to read the whole name!

  85. Werner McGoole
    Boffin

    The apostrophe puzzle

    I heartily support correct apostrophisation as a means to sort the men from the boys in the written language. I particularly like the way the rules are complicated enough to trip up even those who write in to complain about mis-placed apostrophes. It's an added bonus that other aspects of English spelling also have many of the same properties.

    However, I can't help noticing that when we speak, we pronounce "its" and "it's" in exactly the same way. The same is true for many other cases where the apostrophe allegedly disambiguates. So why is it that we can handle the ambiguity in the spoken language, but not in the written one?

    Answers, with correctly placed apostrophes, on a post card please.

  86. Stuart Elliott

    And another thing...

    Ellipses...

  87. Simon Neill

    Yay for punctuation

    "But what about "P.C." with the dots? Does the dot remove the need for the apostrophe? ie. "P.C.s"? Shouldn't "PC" be "P.C." anyway, meaning that "PCs" or "PC's" are just wrong?"

    Yep, should be P.C., H.I.V., A.T.M., A.T. & T. etc.

    Hey look! ., , I'm sure that's not right. And I just used an apostrophe to replace the letter i. Then I started a sentence with "and" so now the gods of grammar are going to kill me.

    I saw a great one yesterday though, it was a guy that used "etc" instead of "e.g." then the old "to" instead of "too".

    As for apostrophe vs single quote, an apostrophe goes in the middle of a word like "don't" single quotes go round a phrase 'something like this'. </2 cents> <coat>leaving</coat>

  88. Mark
    Joke

    Half of Brits abuse apostrophe's

    Yeah, but the apostrophe likes it...

  89. Julian I-Do-Stuff
    Paris Hilton

    Abuse of apostrophe's?

    Abuse of the apostrophe's what?

    Or have I missed the point.

    (if you want my ha'p'orth, 'tis the photo's of Paris' cavortings on the bo'sun's fo'c'sle's decking we should be focussed on)

  90. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    (untitled)

    And there lies the problem of being able to make a simple rule but then those in the position of responsibility deliberately making odd exceptions apparently just for a laugh.

    One PC (it's long been adopted as a separate word so no need of full stops) so it has to be many PCs. It takes a moron in charge to define it any different.

    Similarly with something belonging to it. If something belongs to it the word has to be it's; until some fool gets at the rules, that is.

  91. Barry Lane
    Coat

    Oh, good grief!

    When I was a little lad, way back in 1950-something, we were taught that abbreviated words such as photos required an apostrophe because the word had been cut; thus photo's, 'phone, etc. Rules change, however, and now the abbreviated words are accepted as words in their own right and don't need apostrophes.

    Anywho, what really bugs me is the way people use 'alternate' when they really mean 'alternative'.

    For what it's worth, my son was taught very early on in his life what an apostrophe is and how and where to use one. Mind you, he did his early writing on an Amstrad 1512 and told anyone who'd listen that his middle name was 'S-p-a-c-e-b-a-r' but there we are.

  92. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    The Punctuation Abusers Register

    With dangerous abuse like this rife, all of these abusers should be put on some sort of register and prevented from working with children.

  93. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    Try German grammar

    Trust me, as a German native speaker I can tell you that you really have nothing to worry about. IMHO English grammar is very straight-forward. I do however think that the lack of "proper" grammar lessons in British schools is partly to blame for the confusion. Most people with English as a second language will be able to tell you the difference between Present Perfect, Past Perfect, and Future Perfect. Try asking those Londoners... ;-)

  94. Max Jalil

    Let's ban the apostrophe

    It only causes SQL inline code issues, and while weare at it what is the point of upper and lower case other than to cause duplicate key issues?

  95. Alan Fisher
    Dead Vulture

    Bring and Take

    how many people get this wrong these days?

    Bring to, take away...simple

    especially as so many people make regular use of the former these days!!

    people telling me to "bring that home with you" when they don't live with me is mildly infuriating to say the least.

    Let's be honest, those of us who understand the language (depressingly fewer with each passing day (I blame the Idiot Press; The Sun has a reading age of 10 by the way)) can work our way around the errors and get on with life, no more than slightly annoyed and a-shaking our heads...leave the language alone and maybe try to teach it properly at schools rather than banning spelling tests as "child abuse"...whaddya think?

  96. BioTube
    Coat

    Unsurprising

    The vast majority of people are idiots. Honestly - 'its' is a pronoun ala 'his' and 'hers'; 'they're' is a contraction(how the hell do you mix it up with 'their'?). Don't even get me started on people who don't append an 's' to a singular word ending in it(it's "Mr. Jones's wallet", not "Mr. Jones' wallet"). 'People' is unusual since, properly speaking, it's not the plural of 'person', but when used that way it's treated like any other plural not ending in 's' - it's "the oxen's choice"!

    @Anonymous German:

    There are a lot of things you don't know about languages until you learn another - you merely internalize "this is the way it's done". When you get taught another, THEN you get the full linguistic jargon(I know I had no idea what a direct object was until I started taking a foreign language).

    Mine's the fireproof one.

  97. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    96 posts and no one has noticed . . ?

    . . that the writer of the article does not distinguish words referred to as objects from words that are part of the text?

    "(it's could become its) or leave a space (so we'll would become we ll)".

    The words 'it's', 'its', 'we'll' and 'we ll' need to be clearly distinguished from words active in the text itself (such as it is, poor thing) - preferably by using italics in this instance, but that's beyond my IT skills.

    Oh, and to all those crapping on about language 'evolving' and 'devolving'; language is a spoken medium and constantly changes. Writing is fixed by convention and does not change unless smartarses like Samuel Johnson or Noah Webster get hold of it. Or in the case of German, the Grimm Brothers.

    And why do we get confused between 'their', 'they're' and 'there' in writing when we don't in speaking? Writing and speaking operate in very different ways. We follow speech by following the drift of people's conversations and rarely pay much conscious attention to individual words, which disappear into the ether anyway. In writing, we don't have any such physical context we can follow, and the words also have a habit of persisting on the page and drawing unnecessary attention to themselves. Consequently, a writer (and reader) needs to be far more conscious of the structure of the language she is using in order to supply the necessary "drift". Differentiating words of wildly different meaning and grammar helps to do this by clarifying the meaning that is on the page.

  98. J
    Alien

    Just goes to prove

    "surprising, the Telegraph notes, since the latter have not had the benefit of the "proper" old-school grammar guidance enjoyed by the former"

    Just goes to prove that old people are full of shit when they display such poignant melancholy for the good olden days.

  99. J
    Boffin

    Sure...

    There must be some crazy cases, but most of the time the mistakes are just stupid, really. Even for an EASL like me.

    And the worst is: when I wasn't living in an Anglophone country (USA), I didn't make these mistakes at all, ever. Now, as the language gets more natural to me, I more and more catch spelling mistakes that I used to laugh at... It's the extremely non-phonetic nature of English, methinks. When the I had to pay more attention to the writing process, because it was more difficult, I did not misspell things that now I could, if not paying attention. Dammit.

  100. Leszek KENSBOK
    Thumb Up

    @ J (Posted Thursday 13th November 2008 23:09 GMT)

    As a fellow EASLer I have to agree on the shift in attention which happens when you learn the English language less and less, and apply it more and more in your daily routine.

    When I studied it, and then taught it to others, I lived the grammatical rules almost sub-conciously. The experience of gaining a new skill was still fresh, the implementation was fun, and the repetition an instant gratification for the hard worker, i.e. me. Yes, I _am_ as selfish as that.

    Diplomas and certificates aside, one cannot work as a teacher all his long life. So I moved on from academia to a daily use of English under conditions of professional work in a knowledge field not directly related to linguistics. Where a language is not an end in itself, neither its study, nor its honing.

    Dear J, that is where the pesky uncertainities started to creep in. The flow of thinking already well advanced, the need of expression and explaination of the current step imminent, the attention span stretched to comprise the whole process--not a mere moment of it--here is why occasionally the weight of a particular reasoning step dwindles, the speaker/writer jumps to the "more important" conclusions, neglecting the proper language in the course of events.

    It is alwas "just for now", but it alwas repeats itself ad nauseam.

    This is how I caught myself making mistakes Britishers do--and correcting them the very way they do (we do). The answer is more study, not abolishments of letters. Never mind the loony prof and his whacky suggestion; apostrophes are part of our language, they are here to be used by those inclined to write in order to be understood.

    When I see a strange use of them IRL I just go to the patron, explain, and leave... not without a frequent smile, praise, or occasional gift. Yes, there is such thing as a free meal! At least if you are ready to talk in person to the guys in charge of the premisses where the apostrophes (or English grammar, generally) suffer neglect and misuse, e.g. small restaurants in Italy, France or those little Swiss resorts, greengrocer's shops in Spain, wurstchenbude in Germany, aso.

    You won't believe how many nice encounters and small friendships ensued in the course of my little quest for clean language. Speaking to real users of everyday English is more fun to boot, much more than academic lecturing given to a bunch of silly yoofs. Travelling in Europe needn't be boring exercise devoid of fine language - and humour.

    To Reg readers and J the commenter:

    Thumbs up 'cause we both use English as a means of communication. That's what it's for.

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