I am old enough now to wear reading glasses when the type is teenytiny (teenytiny being a technical term meaning “smaller than 12 point font and less readable than Times New Roman). This means that I am old enough to look over the top of my reading glasses, librarian-style, and look at you in that disapproving, old-lady, kids-these-days-have-no-respect way. This also means that I can, without apology, look over the top of my reading glasses and bemoan the fate of the universe and its complete lack of standards because of a misplaced apostrophe. The rule is very simple. When you want to make a word plural, you add an s. Just an s. One chicken. Two chickens. One egg. Two eggs. If you want to make a word possessive, meaning that you want to say that something belongs to or is a part of something, then and only then do you use the apostrophe. One chicken’s egg. Two chicken’s eggs. (Unless you want duck’s eggs, because you think they are tastier or more exotic, or if you want to paint your living room robin’s egg blue.) If you are talking about something that is both plural and possessive, you put the apostrophe after the s. Two eggs from two different chickens are two chickens’ eggs. Got it?
The only latitude I might be willing to give you is with its and it’s, because it is (it’s) sort of backwards. “It’s” always means “it is”. “Its” is possessive. It’s trying to sit on its eggs. I’m not even going to give you a pass when the singular of the word ends in s. You don’t stick an apostrophe in the middle of a word, unless you are taking out a letter. Thus, madam (which sounds like the purveyor of some off-color business in Reno, unless you have a British accent, in which case you could talk about taking out the garbage and it would sound classy) becomes ma’am. If the word ends in s, you put the apostrophe after the s. My business partner’s name (I only have one business partner, so it would not be partners’) is Don Jones. He gets mail on a regular basis. It is Mr. Jones’ mail. (Mr. Jones’s is also acceptable.) When he and his wife get mail, it should be addressed to the Joneses, and it is the Joneses’ mail. It is not Mr. Jone’s mail (unless his name is Jone) and it is not the Jones’s mail, because it is for two Joneses, not just one Jones.
I have no earthly idea why violation of this rule flies (not fly’s) all over me so much. Every time I get an envelope addressed to “The Duff’s” I want to hurl it back at the sender in a disproportionately violent way. One Duff. Two Duffs. There is no “the” Duff who can possess anything. (My husband may disagree with that, but that’s another argument for another day.)
Unlike commas (not comma’s), which really can change the meaning of a sentence, misplaced apostrophes (not apostrophe’s) don’t cause misunderstandings, they just make you look like you don’t read a lot, or, if you do read, you aren’t paying attention, all of which make me doubt the validity of your opinion. There. I said it. Call me whatever you like, I’m entitled to have at least one firmly held prejudice. I don’t think the P.C. police have gotten around to forbidding punctuation prejudices (not prejudice’s) yet.
This is political season, in case you have been living underneath a rock with no satellite reception, and weren’t aware. I am keeping to my pledge to keep this blog apolitical. However, everyone, their brother, and their second cousins (not cousin’s) alike have made no such pledge, and everyone fancies themselves (not fancy’s themself’s) a pundit. This is made even easier by the ease of clicking ‘reply’ to almost any news (not new’s) article or blog entry or Facebook post. It is simplified even further by the fact that you can use a screen name and no one will ever know who you are unless you choose to say.
Just know this: no matter how brilliant your point, no matter how insightful your argument, no matter how much you may truly be informing the public of something they might not already know, if you complain about the other “parties policy’s”, I’m not listening. If you are a media outlet and you make this mistake, your credibility is forever shot for me. If you are a teacher, well, this is a family publication, and I am, for all intents (not intent’s) and purposes, a lady.
Standards (not standard’s), dadgummit! I’m all for them. Let’s (a contraction for ‘let us’, not a plural or a possessive) start with simple ones (not one’s) that are non-controversial, then work our way up to the ones that actually matter.