Apostrophe Now

Misplaced apostrophes are so common now that they are in danger of becoming standard (if ungrammatical) spelling. I don’t mind seeing them on hand lettered signs but feel annoyed when they appear on professionally made materials. The latter result implies several professional people at various levels viewed the product and failed to see the problem. I take that a little personally, I suppose, because when I was a graphic art student, back in the neolithic age when we prepared our materials for cameras and “stripped the flats” for plate-making, I learned that we were to exercise every bit of caution at every step over the content. I sent a fellow student back to the drafting table once when I caught her stripping a flat for a professional business advertisement she had created that contained a rogue apostrophe (something like “All Ages’ Served”).

I’m not too uptight to get a laugh out of the offending punctuation. I still love my sister’s story about her days as a team manager in high school when she encountered a group of fans carrying a sign that read “We Love Our Boys’!” Her comment was, ‘We love our boys’…what? Is that too risque to be shown?” The fans didn’t get it.

I was therefore delighted to discover this morning that we may eventually solve a serious miscarriage of punctuation here in Maine through legislative action. Today is “Patriot’s Day” here in Maine. No kidding. Just the one “Patriot.” That is how the holiday is officially listed in the statute that created it. I usually refer to it in writing as “Patriots’ Day,” as it was created to celebrate the battles of Lexington and Concord in the Revolutionary War and patriots in general. There is some question as to whether the official term ought to be ” Patriots’ ” or simply an unpunctuated “Patriots,” but some legislators are concerned enough that they are working on a bill to fix the holiday’s name. Either way, I (and many English teachers too) would be relieved to see justice finally, officially served in this matter.


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