The trouble with apostrophes

Posted on October 14, 2010


The irritation that a misused apostrophe causes, let alone the confusion it engenders, is in the news again. It was Hartlepool Council’s turn to be embarrassed recently when the following temporary sign appeared in the town centre “Parking Bay’s suspended”.

Obviously the company responsible did not employ a professional writer to check the content. If they had, they would have been reminded that an apostrophe shows possession or omission of a letter and the rules are quite clear as in the following examples.

  • The dog’s nose i.e. the nose belonging to the dog (simple possession)
  • The dogs’ noses i.e. the noses belonging to the dogs (plural possession)
  • The children’s noses i.e. the noses belonging to the children (plural possession of words not ending in ‘s’)
  • You’re looking at my nose i.e. you are…(omission)

Basic grammar mistakes often create uproar because they cause confusion and debase the English language. On a business website such mistakes should not be tolerated as they give a bad impression of the company. After all, if careless mistakes are allowed in publicity, what careless mistakes are there in the product or the service that is being marketed?

The only sure way to prevent this happening is to employ a professional copywriter who can produce flawless, interesting articles on a regular basis. A constant flow of newsworthy articles and blogs creates search engine optimisation (SEO) for a website ensuring that the company is promoted for the right reasons, not for absurd grammatical errors.

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