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Apostrophes

Consistency first; correctness second
 
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Although I taught English for 40 years I’m no supporter of unchanging grammatical rules. All I ask for in my reading is consistency of usage: within a leaflet, a brochure, a newspaper, a magazine, a book, or one publisher’s range of publications.

Take apostrophes as an example. I’ve long ago given up groaning if, throughout the item, someone has rendered “possessive its” as it’s every single time - so long as it is every single time and not every now and then, to make me stumble as I read.

I wouldn’t even care, in the cause of consistency, if a new edition of Fowler ruled that apostrophes be no longer used in written English, even though they do aid clarity occasionally, when “correctly” used.

But until that time, my half-baked idea, is that a mnemonic I successfully drilled into thousands of students might spread, through the ‘Bakery, to become as common as “i before e except after c”
.

I can dream can’t I?
Here’s the mnemonic.

Possessive its never splits.
Short-form it’s always splits.

rayfo, May 02 2001

The Elements of Style [online] http://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk.html
The classic. (This online abridged version omits the text I quote in my annotation.) [iuvare, May 02 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

[link]






       UnaBubba, clarify please: Do you mean the [, and] in lists or in compound sentences? To wit: [Tuna, mackerel, mako, and swordfish] versus [Tuna, mackerel, mako and swordfish] or [I eat all these fish, and then I'm done] versus [I eat all these fish and then I'm done]?   

       I remain, in pedanticism,
Dog Ed, May 02 2001
  

       Obligatory "smart quotes" grumble.
egnor, May 02 2001
  

       Since "always" and "never" are both two-syllable words stressed on their first syllable and can therefore be exchanged without harm, your mnemonic isn't much of one.   

       This one doesn't suffer from the same problem (although it rhymes badly, but hey.)   

       An "it's" as in "it is"
falls into pieces;
"its" (the possessive)
is much more cohesive.
jutta, May 02 2001
  

       Consistency's first; Correctness' second.

fan boy

For; And; Nor; But; Or; Yet may be preceeded by a comma. [From a technical writing course years ago.]
reensure, May 02 2001
  

       A bloke I knew couldn't tell right from left so we used to give directions using "knife" and "fork". Seemed to work.
Gordon Comstock, May 03 2001
  

       I don't have my Fowler's here to back up what I say, but I seem to recall it says the possessive form can be either "it's" or "its", either is correct. I can understand your wish to use the latter usage (there can't be a plural form of it, so it should theoretically eliminate confusion between the possessive and short form), but this contradicts the standard rule for possesives, which always uses the apostrophe, relying on context to distinguish it from the short form. Extra rules to add complexity annoy me, so I would tend to favour the apostrophe in all forms of "it's", making the usage much easier to remember.
Lemon, May 03 2001
  

       waugs: <off-topic> i'm not a doctor or anything (although i play one on the halfbakery ;-)), but i've heard that mixing up left and right is a sign of dyslexia. i do that all the time when i'm giving directions to a driver. i mean to say "left" but it almost always comes out "right", and vice-versa. interstingly, my sister has the same problem, but she says it's becuase she grew up with french as her first language and has to subconciously translate "gauche" and "droit" into "left" and "right". </off-topic>   

       sorry, nothing to add that's on-topic.
mihali, May 03 2001
  

       Rods you bring up a very serious subject - the condition of language contributing to our erroneous default assumptions. Hofstaedter has dealt with this extensively and interestingly (I recommend Metamagical Themas to all who haven't enjoyed it -- parts are dated but it is still a fantastic read).   

       Right is right. Left is gauche, sinister.
globaltourniquet, May 03 2001
  

       Waugsqueke: I do the same thing...Talking about something, I'll just go completely blank, then start describing what I was talking about. 'Big flat thing, drawers, papers on it...' "A desk?"   

       Also with right and left...I THINK 'right', and say 'left', then feel like an idiot...So I usually point if it's possible..
StarChaser, May 04 2001
  

       //...the possessive form can be either "it's" or "its", either is correct.//   

       No.   

       "A common error is to write it's for its, and vice versa. The first is a contraction, meaning "it is." The second is a possessive."   

       >>The Elements of Style, Chapter I, page 1: "Elementary Rules of Usage"<<
iuvare, May 04 2001
  

       <off topic>Speaking of aphasia, while I don't have it, per se, I did wake up one morning in a horrible condition (and no, it was not controlled-substance induced). I woke up and starting speaking, but every word I said came out as a different word entirely. I was forming complete thoughts, perfectly lucid, but my lips and tongue wouldn't respond at all, and instead I'd utter some garbled, well-enunciated balderdash. Funny for about 15 seconds, aggravating until about 5 minutes, downright scary after 2 hours. Fortunately, I just stopped speaking for the better portion of the day, and it seemed to pass.
absterge, May 04 2001
  

       [ "it's" or "its", ] As a rule of style controversy, I would normally refer anyone to the New York Times Style book. But this is the organization which has decided at all plural references to - now used as words - [ CD, TV ] and other "initial words" will be written as CD's, TV's, not CDs, TVs. This has led to such widespread abuse that it is difficult to understand some writers. Is there a mnemonic for this? Who kno
bobzaguy, May 12 2001
  

       Hey, this one rhymes; don't read the Times.
goatfaceKilla, Sep 12 2005
  

       Should you spell your numbers too?
Dub, Sep 12 2005
  

       You can spell my number's too however you like, just don't use too many comma's, or, we'll have to refer you to [wagster]s, and [AfroAssault]s, rehab clinic for chronic overcommaizer's, next to the apostrophe research building.
wagster, Sep 12 2005
  
      
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