Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.

Is it time to drop the apostrophe?


I don’t know if this is a problem everywhere or just in Australia, so do let me know. It’s become a major annoyance (okay, probably only to people like me–grumpy old women) how much the apostrophe is misused. It’s quite clear that there are many people out there who don’t actually know what it’s for! They just seem to throw it in anywhere. It’s randomly stuck in before any old ‘s’ in signs out the front of fruit shops: tomatoe’s, banana’s etc. Even professional sign writers sometimes abuse the poor little apostrophe like that at times.

I often use the text option while watching TV because my hearing’s not great and I don’t expect good grammar or spelling with that but when someone has paid for an ad which includes huge letters across the screen you would think someone would make sure the spelling and grammar are okay first, wouldn’t you?  Perhaps they use a good old computer spellcheck–we all know how effective that is, don’t we?

Don’t get me wrong–I love spellcheck–I’m shocking at typos; my fingers seem to work independently of my brain, but it’s the first stage of editing, not the last and certainly not the one and only. Words such as who’s and whose and its’, it’s and its are not always picked up by computers.

So is it time to give up? Has our education system totally failed our kids who now think ‘should’ve’ is ‘should of’ and have no idea of the purpose of an apostrophe? Should we just stop using it altogether? Or should we somehow get the message out there that the apostrophe does have a purpose? An apostrophe takes the place of one or more missing letters. Who’s means who is and it’s means it is. There is no apostrophe in the possessive form of ‘its’, any more than in ‘his’ or ‘hers’.

One of the more memorable things I learnt in my literary classes at university was that the apostrophe does, indeed, always indicate missing letters, even in the case of the possessive. The professor told us that many years ago people would say: The dog his bone, or Adam his apple and that this evolved into The dog’s bone, Adam’s apple etc.

We could take to the streets with placards–should they say ‘Rid the world of the apostrophe!’ or should they say ‘Stop abusing the apostrophe?’ My frustrations went into a little ebook, which is free for everyone at Smashwords, What Did You Say? It could be subtitled ‘Words of Wisdom from a Grumpy Old Woman’.


Author: cmsgardnerblog

I'm a writer of fiction and non-fiction, for teens and adults. I live in Central Victoria, Australia and my books are available at

17 thoughts on “Is it time to drop the apostrophe?

  1. I say keep it and hang everybody who uses it incorrectly! Just kidding. Misuse of the apostrophe is only one of the errors that makes me cringe. I have a whole list of things that are cringe-worthy.

  2. There are few things in life that annoy me more than apostrophe abuse. Facebook is rife with it.

  3. I agree… Though there’s something that frustrates me even more. Comma is to me what apostrophe’s to you.

    • Ah, now commas I think are a bit trickier though. There seems to be a ‘style’ issue with them, which allows their use to change every now and then, making it difficult for everyone, don’t you think? Too many blocks the flow for the reader, while too few obviously can totally change the meaning. I aim for clarity and understanding rather than rules.

      • Yes, I agree. I know of a Serbian writer who can pull off a comma after almost every word, but not many can do that… So, yes, it’s a style issue, though my comment was actually about that particular misuse of comma in direct speech, for example: “How are you Ana?” or very commonly: “Hello Ana.”

  4. Ahhh, Christine, I do love your little rant’s!

    Apostrophe’s – dont get me started…

    I didnt realise that thing’s were as bad as that in Oz. I suppose I didnt expect things to be as bad here in England (supposed birthplace of the English language), but they are (probably worse because of previo usly-mentioned claim-to-fame). Some street sign’s here actually remove the apostrophe because the council’s say it look’s better! Look’s better?!

    Hmph and double hmph!

    Suffice it to say that even for someone with English as a second language, the whole apostrophe debacle is really getting on my t*t’s!

    I say enforce the damn thing! Incorrect usage punishable by rendering said assailant comma-tose, full-stop!


    • Ha! I’m not really surprised it’s just as bad in England. We see enough British TV here to follow the deterioration of the English language there. And USA of course. Maybe if we allowed corporal punishment back in schools–whack the kids’ fingers with a ruler if they put apostrophes in the wrong place!

  5. I think we’re all getting annoyed with the abuse of grammar skills. I blame it on texting and twitter’s 140 character rule. But we need it. I couldn’t even my reply without it.

  6. It’s probably just as well I don’t text a lot. I tend to stick to correct punctuation etc., which can be a wee bit slow! I do sometimes shorten words though if I’m texting my sons.

  7. That’s the trouble with society today: when something becomes burdensome, we drop it. Get a dog and find it’s a responsibility, take it to a shelter where it might be adopted but most likely will be euthanized. Run into a few obstacles in your marriage, get a divorce and try again.

    It appears you’re suggesting that it’s easier to rid ourselves of the apostrophe than to learn it’s proper use. I say no to that. Not only is it useful, it’s essential to proper grammar.

  8. I wasn’t serious about dropping it but I do find the incorrect use of apostrophes more annoying than the absence when they should be included. I think it’s more about education than laziness. It’s clear that some people simply have no idea what apostrophes are for.

  9. Love your rants. I can rant about the apostrophe every day. It’s amazing that, in newspapers, magazines, TV commercials – you name it – and the apostrophe is either misplaced or missing! I believe it’s because punctuations, and grammar as well, are not taught in elementary school anymore. Rant on!

    • Yep. That seems to be the problem. All parents need to look out for their kids’ education. It can’t be left up to the schools–they just don’t have time for everything. First and foremost, we need to make sure kids read books! Even if they only want to read fart jokes, as long as the spelling and punctuation is right, encourage them to read.

  10. It is time to go back to “old school.” They need to teach and re-teach grammer, punctuation … In USA, many schools stopped teaching cursive writing. There is more to life than abbreaviations and twitter hash-tags. Ironically, many of the “now” people are finding it hard to find jobs. They cannot fill out job applications, sign their name or even look into the eyes of their prosepctive employer. Texting, tweeting, et cetera, all have their time and place – but in the “real” world, people do meet and greet. And in filling out a job applicaions, apostrophe or not apostrophe, grammer and punctuation are still considered an asset and may be the “in” you need to clinch the job.

  11. Save the apostrophe! With texting and Tweeting we’re losing clarity and precision. The number of words we use is dwindling and the simplest word is chosen instead of the most correct. I love reading good fiction and non-fiction and I revel when precise words are selected instead of the easy one: tempest instead of storm; apex instead of top. baulk instead of stop. Great writing needs the clarity of grammar and a huge dictionary.

  12. Totally agree, Brian. Val, I think I agree with you too, but I hate waffle and I prefer simple word use over flowery language that’s not meaningful. I like your examples but I think it can be overdone.

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