Editor's Columnl: Apostrophe catastropheWhen you work with words for a living there are certain rules with which you need to familiarize yourself. Things like, I before E.
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
When you work with words for a living there are certain rules with which you need to familiarize yourself. Things like, I before E. Don't end a sentence with a preposition. Go back to school and learn a real skill.
Ignore those rules and bad things can happen. Not least of which is, you could end up a newspaper columnist.
Think of writing a sentence like building a house: bend a few of the less important rules from time to time and people will think you're being creative. But go too far and the result won't be of much use to anyone. And your plumbing will leak. Nobody wants a soggy paragraph.
It's possible I went too far with that simile.
One of the most commonly abused rules has to do with the placement of apostrophes. It's not really a difficult rule to figure out, but still people seem to struggle. You don't have to look far to find examples of poorly punctuated plurals and possessives. The world is full of inappropriate it's and's and but's.
Its one of my biggest pet peeve's.
How do we deal with this epidemic? The most popular solution among people uncertain about the rules appears to be something I like to call "Guess and hope." Don't know how to leave a note telling your friends you've gone to Jim's house? Just throw an apostrophe in there. Heck, throw in two. Better to be overpunctuated than under, right?
Actually, if you're in Birmingham, England, that's not so much the case. According to a Jan. 30 Daily Mail article the city, known as the home of both J.R.R. Tolkien and Ozzy Osbourne, has decided to do away with apostrophes altogether in the signs it uses to designate historic places. So, for example, St. Paul's Square becomes St. Pauls Square. And common sense becomes common sen'se.
According to one city authority cited by the Daily Mail, the decision was about ensuring consistency among all the city's signs. Consistency, in this case, apparently trumping every English lesson city officials received growing up.
Predictably, there are people less than enthusiastic about the idea of being consistently wrong. Even more predictably, the man who is most vocal with his objections is a crusty former journalist. In this case, it's a man named John Richards who in 2001 founded something called the Apostrophe Protection Society and whose photo on that site (apostrophe.co.uk) features a pair of eyebrows that look like apostrophes run amok. Honestly, it's like two patches of facial hair are trying to right the wrongs of an entire world of omitted apostrophes.
Richards argues Birmingham's decision sets "a terrible example" for teachers trying to help children learn correct grammar and punctuation.
"If you don't have apostrophes, is there any point in full stops, or semi-colons, or question marks?" he asked, presumably rhetorically. "Is there any point in punctuation at all?"
Richards predicts a downward spiral that will ultimately lead to haphazardly-constructed sentences, poor spelling and readers who don't know what belongs to whom.
In other words, he's predicting a world where the printed word resembles any given edition of this column.
And nobody want's that.