Chelsea Kaplan’s Musings About Life... After Birth

HowtoSoundSmarterWhenYouWrite:FreeLesson

Posted by Colleen on September 08, 2011

I was an English major, but I'm no grammar pro. My third grader asked me to check her predicate homework last night, and I was all, "Uh, sure. What's a predicate?" So we aren't talking advanced English here, folks. But please, for the love of all that's good and holy, stop treating apostrophes like jewelry for your words. They don't make them fancier. They make them wrong.

I know grammar lessons are a distant memory (hello, predicates!), so here's a crash course for those of you who need to dust the cobwebs of off that chapter of your native language.

  • Use an apostrophe if your word owns something. (Colleen's blog post.) Personal pet peeve: The signs at the end of driveways that read "The Baker's." The Baker's what? House? Driveway? Yard?
  • Use an apostrophe if a letter is missing because you've combined words. (Baby, it's cold outside.) An apostrophe does not make your word more plural. So saying "Aren't these table's GORGEOUS??" doesn't make me any more enthusiastic about your project. It makes me cringe, and by the time I'm done cringing I've probably already finished scrolling to the bottom of your page and may be pulling you off my Google Reader.

And that's it. (See what I did there?) There are other simple/common grammar mistakes, and some of them probably bother you more than others. Hell, I bet you're even annoyed by the ones I've made within this post. But here's the deal: I'm seeing apostrophes used more liberally in blog posts and professional communications than butter in a Paula Deen recipe, and y'all. It's bad.

If you're in a business environment, PEOPLE JUDGE YOU.

If you have a blog, you are a writer. It doesn't matter what you're writing about, you're a writer. Writers are allowed to break any and all rules as long as they break them on purpose. Don't abuse that right. PEOPLE JUDGE YOU.

The bottom line: The fact that your readers judge you doesn't make them shallow. Or mean. Or ugly. It makes them smart enough to consider the source of the information they're receiving. Information on the Internet is free and abundant. Don't give your readers a reason to skip over your message. You don't want them wondering if whether you're smart enough to be their boss if you weren't smart enough to proofread. Same goes for blog posts. No matter how cute your photos are, if I see a glaringly wrong error, especially in your headline, I'm not going to read your blog. Sorry.

With that, I'm going to dismount my soapbox before my pinky gets a little trigger happy and hits that apostrophe key.

If you're interested in user-friendly grammar tips, check out The Grammar Girl's posts. She'll keep you honest. And sounding smart.

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Picture of Jennifer K. Hale Jennifer K. Hale on September 8, 2011 at 2:15pm

Love it, C! Love it.

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