Introducing Professor Punctuation

Welcome, Prof Punc!

Today, we are welcoming a newcomer to Amaze-ing Words Wednesday. From our local college faculty, I now introduce Professor Punctuation. I’ll hand over the mic now. Thanks for coming, professor.

I know, I know: I don’t look like a professor. However, trust me when I say that I know my stuff. Forget the chalkboard and textbook: All you need for today’s lesson is your eyeballs and my expertise. And call me Prof Punc.

Punctuation is the part of language expressed by:

 , ; : ‘ ” . ? !

And today’s topic is the apostrophe.

First, imagine that you’re an apostrophe. How would you feel? Misunderstood? Misused? Well, the Doubleclicks pretty much cover it with a song. Grab your latte and take a listen.

So there are several ways that poor apostrophe gets abused. Let me help you and that ol’ apostrophe out with some tips.

If you want a plural, leave the apostrophe out of it. It’s rude to wake up an apostrophe and make him stand around before an s at the end of a word when he could be sleeping in. How about we look at some examples?

I swear there’s not a theme here. These are simply the best photos that came up. But it does make a girl wonder. Anyway, if you mean a bunch of something, you don’t need to bother an apostrophe for that plural. Simply add an s.

EARTH-SHATTERING ANNOUNCEMENT. This is true with names as well! So if your last name is Smith, and there are a bunch of you at your family reunion, you have a gathering of Smiths, not Smith’s. The invitation should read, “Please join the Smiths for their son’s bar mitzvah.” The welcome mat should say, “The Smiths.” It’s just plural. If your name ends with an s or a z? Hey, toss an e in there like you would for any other s or z-ending word: “The Hesses” or “The Gutierrezes.”

This is also true with decades. You lived through the 1990s. Some will debate that you should put an apostrophe in there as “1990’s.” But really, it’s just plural, so why would you? You don’t need it.

If it’s only a verb, leave the apostrophe out of it. I felt the need to include only one photo on this one. Renee Zelwegger represents this gigantic oops well enough for all the misguided out there.

Seriously, Renee? Apostrophe is never part of a verb word itself. If the apostrophe hangs around verbs, it’s because there is a pronoun contraction involved. Example? You are = you’re. It is = it’s. He will = He’ll. Get it? But if you’re simply making a verb plural, it’s the same rule as with plural nouns: No apostrophe.

If you have a contraction, call an apostrophe. An apostrophe often takes the place of letters that are missing. When we use a shortcut to say two words together, then the apostrophe is happy to step in. So you are becomes you’re. Where I live, you and all make y’all. There are plenty of other examples. A picture is worth a thousand words?

I have no idea what the rest of the billboard says. Come up with your own.

If you have a possessive, get an apostrophe. Apostrophe loves coming around for possession. If someone owns it, slap an apostrophe in there. Thus, it’s Bill’s date, Tawni’s mohawk, your parents’ love life, and my ex-boyfriend’s sister’s husband’s jail sentence. You get the idea. This is also why the following businesses have an apostrophe in their name.

A special note on it’s/its. This is the face palm moment for a lot of you, right? When do you use “its” and when do you use “it’s”? One is possessive and one is a contraction, and I just said that contractions and possessives get apostrophes. So which is it?! Where does the “its” come into play?

This chick needs to relax.

Well, just with the contraction here. When you mean it is, bring on that apostrophe for the contraction and make the shortcut it’s. If a pronoun is possessive, however, you leave out the apostrophe. So it is his, hers, mine, yours, ours, theirs, and its.

Now get out there and use those apostrophes right, students! Just ask what could happen if you don’t know where the apostrophe goes.

I hate grading papers over the weekend, so no homework. In fact, I never give real homework. Your homework is to be smart and stay cool. As they say, peace out.

Thanks Professor Punctuation — I mean, Prof Punc — for that important lesson. I remember watching an Angel episode in which a lawyer presented a business card that read “Attorney’s at Law.” If only the TV show makers had consulted you beforehand . . .

Now what do the readers think? Where do you struggle with the use of an apostrophe? What mistakes have you seen people make with an apostrophe?

18 thoughts on “Introducing Professor Punctuation

  1. Gosh, you make grammar so interesting and understandable! I’ve always struggled with her’s vs. hers and similar situations (even though it’s and its always made sense), so this was a lot of help. Thanks!!

    1. It is fascinating how a single teacher can stand out for what they teach you. Years later, I have to admit that my odd-bird geometry teacher was simply amazing. Thanks, Patti.

  2. Apostrophe gaffes drive me nuts! (Yes, I know, short drive). I once read a 50-page contest entry that had your and you’re misused throught the whole thing. It was one of the lowest scores I’ve ever given (it had a lot of other problema, too).

    1. Oh my goodness, there are some people who simply don’t get it regarding apostrophes, or perhaps they don’t care. I’m sure you were head-smacking the whole time you read that essay. Thanks for coming by, Jennette.

  3. Great blog! Your lesson was concise and easy to understand.

    Apostrophe is not one of my trip-ups…unless I am in a huge hurry or very tired. My favorite example was the tattoo. I have seen people who have stuff like that tattooed on them. It’s cringe-worthy. This is one reason I haven’t gotten up the nerve to have actual words tattooed on my body.

    I’ll tell you the grammar thing that trips me up. Maybe you’ll want to blog on it sometime. Or just tell me the answer. Here’s the example. I’ll explain what I mean below that.

    I always want to give out birthday and Christmas cards that feature a picture of my dog and the words “Who farted?”

    Now. Do I put a period on the outside of the quotation marks? Because the sentence isn’t really a question. It’s a statement. But I remember grammar rules always say the punctuation never goes on the outside of the quotation mark.

    Again, I enjoyed reading this. 😀

    1. Prof Punc would LOVE to talk about the proper use of punctuation and quotation marks. Like nearly everything else in English, it isn’t all one way or the other. Frankly, I think the Brits have an easier system with this, but we Americans decided to do our thing. As to the simple “Who farted?” question, why would there be a period if there is already a question mark inside the quotes (where, in this case, it belongs)? It seems that “Who farted?” would be sufficient. As to this being the focus of your Christmas cards, Catie, LOL.

  4. Best grammar post ever! I’m sure Catie was thinking of me as she read this – she’s always correcting my apostrophes. For some reason I want to add them to plurals. Duh.

    And I loved her grammar question. That is a good one, and I certainly don’t have the answer, but I’d think inside the quotes. Just a guess.

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