Accidental Apostrophe

I judge you when you use poor grammar.

Have you seen this hilarious book? There is also a Facebook Fan Page, which I just had to join.

Disclaimer: I am not above making a grammatical or spelling error from time to time. I’ll know it’s ‘your’ and but I’ll type ‘you’re’ or ‘throw’ and type ‘through’. You know, things like that. When I catch it, it’s usually just after I’ve hit the send key, and I scramble immediately to write a follow-up, distancing myself from the error with much fervor. If I don’t catch the mistake until it’s far too late, I cringe inwardly, feel enormously embarrassed, and hope the reader just doesn’t notice it. Because when you’re audacious enough to out yourself as a grammar snob, you’d better have the goods to back it up, no?!

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, on to my punctuation pet peeve: the abuse of the apostrophe. People, who don’t know from plurals to possessives, and worse, have these errors printed on letters, business signs, and artwork.

It’s been a Shmina family joke for so many year’s* those possessives that aren’t. At this point in my life, my eyes immediately seem to spot the apostrophe that does not belong before I can even read the sentence. Seriously, it’s like an innate skill.

Or a burden.

Because over the years when letters from school have come home with the inappropriate possessive apostrophe, I’ve thought, “should I tell them it’s wrong?” It really is not about me feeling superior to the writer; it’s about quietly telling them so they can avoid making the same mistake again and again. If I could tell the writer in a kind way, it wouldn’t be as though I was hurting their feelings.

Or would it?

When I asked another parent who’d also gotten the mailings if she thought I should point it out (quietly! i would never want to intentionally embarrass anyone!) she didn’t think it was a good idea. Nor did the other member of my “trusted council” (a teacher, in fact), so…I exhaled and let it go. And watched those notes come home, year after year with apostrophe’s* all over the page where none were warranted.

And then there was the tee shirt that was printed…making what should have been simply a plural (a group), a singular possessive. It was in smaller print, but darned if my eye didn’t hone right in on that apostrophe like a heat-seeking missile.
Which brings me to my current dilemma: an acquaintance has been working on a project, her dream project, for about a year. She’d been telling me about it every time I’d see her, which was about every five weeks. Recently, she left her existing career to pursue the dream full time. The other day I saw a mutual acquaintance who told me that she’d completed her first project and had it accepted for sale by one of my favorite shops in Jacksonville Beach!

Awesome! I was (and am) so excited for her. I’m sure you can guess the rest of the story by now. I visited the shop on Saturday morning specifically to see her item and the shop owner was just placing it out, front and center, on the sidewalk! I walked up to it, camera in hand…and there it was. That darned apostrophe, hand-painted onto the object as part of several sentences of lovely sentiments…but making the word in question a singular possessive instead of simply the plural she intended.

No, I didn’t point it out to the shop owner; but I kept thinking, “Oh no, oh no. Because of that apostrophe, I could never buy the item.” I was still thinking about it when I went to The BookMark in Atlantic Beach, and spotted the “I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar” book next to the cash register.

So I asked the owner: would you tell her about the apostrophe, so she didn’t continue to make the same mistake on her future products, which are all hand-painted? She and another woman, a customer in the shop, both agreed: No one likes a wise-ass, and telling her about the apostrophe would, in fact, be a wise-ass thing to do.


The customer proffered this thought: Would I be telling her to serve my own needs? As an older woman, she’s been on the receiving end of younger people who try to assist her when she is perfectly capable of doing it herself. Once, when she thanked a would-be helper and declined her offer, the woman was offended, stating that it had been her goal to do “acts of kindness for others” and she now felt rebuffed. So, this woman advised me, too, to basically keep my mouth shut and let my acquaintance carry on with her work without the “benefit” of my “advice”.

I get it; I really do. Still, I don’t feel as though I’d be “doing it for me.” I really would like to tell her simply because she is hand-painting all this on, and one of the words is simply not right.

I would want to know, if the information was given to me in a sensitive and loving way. I really don’t think this is about me wanting to show her that “I know better.”

Even though I did say I was a grammar snob who laughs about apostrophes.


So, I’m asking you for your thoughts. Please feel free to tell me truthfully what you think. Stay mum? I can do that. But would you want to know? See, I worry that it might cost her some sales, too. I personally wouldn’t knowingly buy something that had a spelling or punctuation error on it, and her product really is very nice.

This is obviously a common mistake that many people make. Heck, I might even make it, too, one of these day’s.

Thought’s? Comment’s?


*This is what I’m talking about! This is the error I see practically every day!


  1. Candy Strickland says:

    I am with you 100%; it's difficult, but I have brought this very thing to a friend's attention in the past. I just pointed out how common it was,although incorrect. My favorite is a mailbox or nicely painted serving dish brought out at parties with the family name posted with an apostrophe for everyone to see. P.S., I loved your "thank's" ending.

  2. Sink says:

    Are you asking for comments or commas?

    πŸ™‚ Jeannie, you write good. πŸ™‚


  3. Lars says:

    I come via Remarks from Sparks. I am a grammar snob as well yet I make errors up the yahoo. See I am certain that a comma was most likely in order in that sentence between the well and yet. I appreciate people correcting me. I have a sick compulsion to correct myself after reading my errors. Sparks can verify this due to the incessant emails and remarks left on her blog profusely apologizing for my errors. I blame sleep deprivation from grad school and the fact that I have written forty plus research papers in the last year all requiring multiple revisions and countless proofing so I get lazy in my leisurely writing.

    If it were me, I would take the feedback since that is how we learn. If your friend is offended it is a personal problem, i.e. they feel grammatically inept.

    Hopefully my two cents helped and you delighted in proofing my comment. πŸ™‚

  4. Michele Renee says:

    Hmmmm, what to do. I am a grammar eagle eye too. I see the word its in all its possessive glory messed up on a daily basis. I see the word stationery wrong too. In fact I saw it once on a lady's website in which she was offering stationery services as stationary services.
    The issue here is that this is not a letter or a blog post. This sounds like something pretty big, i.e. something to sell to the public and the creator should have enlisted some proofing help.
    Anyway, I probably would not have said anything in your example. It baffles me that the creator did not doublecheck this. If it were a really good friend I would have offered before the final production to help eyeball for grammar. But since it was an acquaintance and you were not part of the project I would not personally say anything. But I would be soooooo tempted to have someone else say something who was not an acquaintance.

  5. Fearless Nester says:

    You could always ask for a custom order, without the apostrophe! Just kidding you know…that really wouldn't be nice! When I feel I have to "walk on eggshells" for fear of offending someone, I inherently know not to offer any advice, ever. Good luck sweetie!

  6. Terra says:

    They call me Eagle eye too.

    Even so it happened to me. I'm able to laugh now, but not at the time.
    The copy editor assigned fell ill and the one who replaced her was not as good an editor.

    What I do best is write and I'm happiest when working with an outstanding copy editor.

    Alas. When it comes time for the second printing I can fix and make the grammar snobs proud. But at the moment I have a book in print with a couple of errors glowing. And probably there are a few readers out there who wondered if they should tell me.

    Not to worry. I know πŸ™‚

  7. Anonymous says:

    I seen your article. You right good. Lot's of nice stuff. I run it passed my attorney at laws. They likes it to.

  8. Lars says:

    I can only hope Anonymous wrote that as a joke. That was painful. Yep I am brutally honest and need to tone it down but obviously hooked on phonics failed someone.

  9. Owlhaven says:

    I'd leave it be unless I was a very close friend or sure of the person's ability to accept criticism. We all do it sometimes.


  10. Terra says:


    If I didn't know, would I want to know?


    As an aside Jeannie I appreciate your good writing because your topic brings me to my pet peeve – the scores of blogs with beautiful website pages but the blogger cannot write.

  11. Karen says:

    First you could NEVER do anything selfish so that's right out. Now that is out of the way…would you tell your friend if she had spinach in her teeth? Would you tell her if her skirt was in her panty hose? I don't think this is any different. However you could circumvent this by sending a picture of it to someone else and let them "catch" it …but I'd want to know because she looks ignorant otherwise and part of the "lowest common denominator" and no one wants that do they?

  12. Karen says:

    I'de tell her. For future reference.. but carefully. Only because.. I am not a grammer snob, but it hits my in the face when it's incorrect and I wouldn't by it for that reason.

  13. bethany says:

    I think it's possible, as you note about yourself, that your friend knows the rule and just made a mistake. I know when I am trying to write things prettily, all my knowledge of spelling and grammar just fly right out the window. Board writing, for example. I'd hold off until you see a pattern of errors.

  14. Mickey Johnson says:

    …grammar snobs! my goodness! i am not a grammar snob…indeed far from it, but i do like to see words typed out in their entirety. you know…like, thanks rather than thnx…or happy birthday rather than happy b-day…xo, mickey

  15. Drawn to The Sea says:

    since I tend to take poetic license with grammar & punctuation, using words as art… I think I'll just keep my little mouth shut πŸ˜‰

    Happy day!

  16. mcat says:

    Nobody likes criticism but sooner or later the mistake will be revealed. Or maybe we are surrounded by grammar morons. But hey, all those apostrophe challenged businesses are out making money. What do I know?

Speak Your Mind