Friday, January 24, 2014

Apostrophes apostrophes apostrophes!

This email arrived in my inbox this week, advertising a seminar at which I could learn "best practices" in internal communications. Given that the email contains two apostrophe errors in the first couple of lines, I'm not going to put too much stock in the sender's expertise in best communication practices.

Error #1: "employee's attention"

The apostrophe before the "s" indicates we're talking about the attention of one employee. In this case, though, we're most likely talking about multiple employees' attention -- so the apostrophe should follow the "s."

Error #2: "employees attention"

This is the same case as above -- just a different error, because the writer left the apostrophe off altogether.

Both sentences should say "...fighting to get your employees' attention."

This one is a little trickier:


The writer knows to use an apostrophe after the "s" when showing possession of a plural word -- but there's an exception if the plural word doesn't end in "s."

If this was the babies' corner, or the girls' corner, or the owners' corner, this apostrophe would be fine. These are plural words that end in "s." But the plural noun "men" doesn't end in an "s," so we show possession the same way we would with a singular noun (by adding apostrophe "s"): men's corner.

This writer's problem is spelling:

Apostrophe "s" isn't used to pluralize nouns, though you see it all the time. For example:

While it might seem simple to just add the "s" to "tee" to pluralize it ("Custom Tees" is correct), the journalist above forgot the rule about pluralizing nouns that end in "y."

To pluralize "company," you'd remove the "y" and replace it with "ies" ("companies").

Here are last week's apostrophe resource links again:

For an easy-to-read-and-understand primer on how to use the apostrophe, Grammar Girl offers a great series of posts -- and when you need a quick reference with a laugh on the side, check out The Oatmeal.

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