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The Misuse of the Apostrophe

I'm not one of those writers who considers herself a grammar geek, though there are plenty of you out there, I know.  I'm more of an intuitive type when it comes to grammar.  But there are a few things that, when misused, make me crazy.  And I want to discuss one of those things today.

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Portland, albeit cold, and my husband and I went for a walk to look at all the new construction in the neighborhood.  (We live in an inner-city area full of near-hundred-year-old homes but there's a trend to tearing down old houses and putting up one or sometimes two to replace them.)  We noticed the following sign hanging above the front door of a house:

The Gibson's.

I screamed gasped.  When my husband asked me what was wrong, I proceeded to tell him about how the apostrophe was misused on the sign and that just because you are using an "s" at the end of a word, that doesn't mean you need an apostrophe, too.  You do in some cases, but not all cases.

Why was the apostrophe misused on the sign?  Because it was intended as a plural (as in multiple Gibsons living within the home) as opposed to a possessive (the sign did not denote owning anything).  If the sign had said The Gibson's Home, it would have been correct.  (One could perhaps make a case that the home was assumed, but I think precision in all things is important.)

You see this, don't you?  Please tell me you do, because the mis-use of the apostrophe is rampant, people, and it makes me want to do horrible things to the perpetrators.  The misuse of the apostrophe is so rampant, in fact, that it started to make me doubt myself.  So much so that I looked it up.  And found, yes, that I am right.

A simple way to get this right is to stop and think about what you are writing.  Are you writing about somebody owning something?  (Charlotte's car.) Then use an apostrophe.  Are you writing about mulitiple things? (The Charlottes.) Then please don't freaking use an apostrophe!

After I explained all this to my husband, he allowed as how I was no doubt the most brilliant writer and grammarian on the planet and thus could I please explain the difference between it's and its? And so I did:

it's = it is

its = the possessive

Just remember to ask yourself if you can change "it's" to "it is" and that should solve any confusion.

Are we clear on this now?

What grammar issues do you struggle with?  Are you a grammar nut or a grammar intuitive, like me?

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