Sunday, September 26, 2010

Comma Up High

So, the story goes that a mom enrolled her child in kindergarten and when she was asked to spell her child’s unusual first name, she said, “L-A-comma up high-K-Y-J-A.”  The comma up high was, of course, my favorite little punctuation mark, the apostrophe.
There is no other punctuation mark more misunderstood and misused than the apostrophe.  I will apologize now for the snarky nature of this post because some may view it as such.  Please know that I am not passing judgment on you if you misuse the apostrophe--it happens a lot.  But like Oprah says, when you know better, you do better.
After having our family pictures taken (possibly for Christmas cards this year???), I feel it is my duty as a grammar snob to encourage people to think about their apostrophe usage, especially during the upcoming holiday season.  Here’s a little apostrophe lesson:
(Plural) One cat is a cat.  Two cats are cats.  
(Possessive) Whose bowl is that?  It’s the cat’s bowl.  
See what I did there?  Cats=more than one cat.  Cat’s=belonging to the cat.  The first instance (without an apostrophe) is PLURAL.  The second instance (with the apostrophe) is POSSESSIVE.  Let me apply this concept to signing a Christmas card.
Merry Christmas!
The Johnsons
Johnsons=more than one Johnson.  Johnson’s=belonging to one of the Johnsons.  While we’re at it, Johnsons’=something belonging to all of the Johnsons.
So, if we were to sign our Christmas card “Love, the Johnson’s,” people would be left confused.  Which one of the Johnsons?  And what is that Johnson possessing?  Unfortunately, this phenomenon has exploded across Christmas cards in the last few years, as I have noticed more cards have an apostrophe than not.  (You’re not alone in your confusion!)  If all of this is too overwhelming, just know that you don’t ever ever ever ever ever need an apostrophe when signing a Christmas card from your family.
On a side note, if you have a last name that ends with an “-s,” you still don’t need an apostrophe.  This doesn’t affect most people, so I won’t go on and on, but if you are a Jones or a Velasques, you have to add an “-es” which is admittedly strange (Joneses seems like grammar Tourette’s sydrome) but correct.
My good deed for the day is done now that I’ve saved you all from making horrible mistakes on your Christmas cards.  (You can now commence scouring this post, looking for mistakes in order to make me look stupid for being such a snob.)
If you are as big a tight ass as I am, you might find this website humorous:  It’s actually really, really sad when you google “apostrophe” how many websites are devoted to pointing out other people’s apostrophe errors.  

Also, my favorite SIL got me this book for my birthday.  Totally worth checking out even if you don't have kids!


  1. A much needed post. Keep up the good work.

  2. How 'bout Jones Family?

    Recently, I gave an email address to someone on the phone. When I said hyphen, the girl asked if it slanted.


  3. what about when you husband buys you a very expensive and fancy return address stamp, and puts the apostrophe by your name??? what if you feel obligated to use it because he spent alot of money on it and you don't want to hurt his feelings???


    the wright's

  4. I love this post!! I'm not a snob, but man, I hate it when people use apostrophes incorrectly. And it's even worse when businesses/newspapers do it. It makes me grind my teeth in agony.

  5. Good post!
    My last name is a perfect example:
    The Simses
    People are confused when they see it.. I must admit it DOES look weird though.

  6. Well, dear Leia, I especially appreciate your post. As a teacher, I find it quite disturbing that even educated professionals (including teachers) make so many grammar errors. Perhaps someday in the future, these errors will be non-existent, since texting and "short-hand" typing have become the new fad. NOT okay with that! "lol, u kno what i mean?" Grrrr!

  7. Catching up on some posts...I'll remember to teach my kindergarten kiddos early about the misused apostrophe.


  8. Who knew a post about apostrophes would get such a response?

    Tracy, you should totally get that Greedy Apostrophe book for your kiddos!