The Apostrophe Debate

I thought it might be fun to let you all in on a discussion that was a part of one of my classes. For some reason, I got extremely riled up and had to get my own two cents in. Hope you enjoy.

Without further ado:

My Side of the Apostrophe Debate

The apostrophe serves too many purposes to be abolished from the English language. Aside from that, the apostrophe exists here; therefore, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate simply by wishing it away. Yes, apostrophe placement is troublesome at times, but everyone (at least, in the United States) knows the apostrophe exists, whether or not it is used correctly. Demanding that people should drastically and immediately change their language rules would not only be irrational, but also impractical and uncouth.

The opposing side claims that the apostrophe serves no real purpose. This is simply not true. It distinguishes the owner from the owned, the author from the authored, the measure from the measured, and the origin from the place. In addition to showing possession, it is also used in contractions to denote a missing letter (or letters). The opposing view that these words and phrases can simply be rewritten, while true, does not tackle the root of the problem. Americans do not speak the same way as Mexicans, for example. The Spanish language uses prepositional phrases to show ownership and does not use contractions. Common, spoken English does not, and Americans do use contractions and possessive nouns in their everyday language. Not including contractions and possessive nouns in the English language would negate parts of it commonly used in day-to-day conversation.

Another claim is that apostrophes waste time and resources and that we would be better off without them (killtheapostrophe.com). It is true that the use of apostrophes in print add to the cost because they add to the materials and space being used, and more time is needed to create them. However, by this same logic, other punctuation should not be in print because it takes more time and resources to create. Using a classic example, I ask you, what kind of a message would a company send if its billboard read “Lets eat Grandma”? “We would be better off without them” is an opinion not shared by all, probably not even by most. To change the rules for the benefit of some is not a very wise decision, as history and politics can attest.

Finally, we come to the claim that since the apostrophe is often misplaced or its rules misunderstood, we should get rid of it altogether. To this, I have the same reply as the argument “being better off without them”—changing the rules for the benefit of some is not very wise. It is likely that people would continue to use them, anyway.

Language is always evolving, and, while I don’t agree with abolishing the apostrophe, I can see the possible decline of its use. In part, I blame computers and texting for the apostrophe debate, although I am aware that it has been around long before. With text messaging language like “lol” and “ttyl” joining the ranks of acceptable communication among younger generations and computer generated paperwork omitting apostrophes in names, perhaps the omission of the apostrophe is not far behind the evolution of words like “tomorrow.” I suppose I’ll have to just wait and see.

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Categories: Musings, Opinion, Sample Writing, Writing | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “The Apostrophe Debate

  1. Came looking for a new post, so I thought I’d have a peek into your archives! This is so informative!! And I love the way you shape your thoughts/argument.

  2. Pingback: There’s a hacker | B2B STORYTELLING

  3. Pingback: List of 5 Common Grammar Errors – Writing Tips Series Part 3 | Dawn-Reneé Rice

  4. A. Wick

    Love this posting! But, then, again, what else would you expect from an English professor . . .

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