GOT a pet grammar peeve? Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of hugely popular news website The Huffington Post has.
She goes red in the face over apostrophe abuse.
I’m with Arianna. If it’s misplaced, an apostrophe can completely change the meaning of a headline, phrase or sentence, making nonsense of what you’re really trying to say.
“Now I really hate to make such a big stink about a little squiggle,” says Arianna, “especially at a time when Iraq continues to spin out of control, and the death toll mounts. But sometimes a small thing like this can have much bigger ramifications.
“Think of it as the literary equivalent of the broken-windows theory of crime fighting, which holds that by fighting small quality-of-life crimes like graffiti and vandalism, police send a persuasive message that anti-social behaviour, of any scale, will not be tolerated.”
It’s crazy really that such a little “squiggle”, as Arianna calls it, seems to cause problems for so many people. And there’s no need at all for it to be so misused. It’s quite a simple piece of punctuation – once you get the hang of it.
If you have problems with apostrophes, there’s a great little book available called The Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage Without Apostrophes! written by Lynne Truss (yes, that Lynne Truss – she of Eats, Shoots and Leaves fame).
The apostrophe, reckons Lynne, is the most helpful of all punctuation marks. “I see it as a tireless Good Punctuation Fairy, flitting above a page of words, looking for anything that’s a bit of a muddle, and then waving a wand to make it clear.”
As something of a punctuation prima donna myself, I love the book. It’s aimed primarily at children, although there are lots and lots (or should that be lot’s and lot’s?) of adults who would benefit from this little gem.
*If you can’t get hold of Lynne’s book or you’d prefer an instant lesson, click on my free tutorial, Apostrophe Catastrophe, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
What’s your pet (punctuation or grammar) peeve?