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Could it all be the fault of Microsoft?

Pet Peeve of the Day: Apostrophes and Plurals

I have been wondering for some time why it is that so many people use apostrophes in plurals. Such as actually arguing that "The Smith's" is correct when you put a sign on a house (when, of course, it should be "The Smiths"). (I see this a LOT in email.)

Today I was working in Word and I noticed that when I typed the word "O'Connors" (plural), it marked it as incorrect (red underline). When I clicked it to see how the program THOUGHT it should be spelled, it gave two options: "O'Connor" and "O'Connor's." I jumped to the conclusion that people assume a word processing program's dictionary is infallible; they take the second suggestion because "the program says so."

I (and my fellow Word Processors, who are pretty snappy on grammar and spelling) noticed when we first updated to Word at my office that there are NO correct plurals in Word's dictionary. We of course added them to our personal dictionary as needed. But I wonder how many people out there actually think that the programmers of Word at Microsoft had any notion of how to correctly write plurals and take that as gospel instead of looking it up somewhere.

Next time you see someone typing something like "the Smith's," remember, that's possessive. It should be followed by something, like "The Smith's new convertible." (BTW, the spell check program here in LJ just isn't that awesome, either, since it doesn't have any contractions in it.)

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
fenchurche
Nov. 14th, 2003 05:49 pm (UTC)
I have been wondering for some time why it is that so many people use apostrophes in plurals.

Hee! I have a quote written on my fridge about this: An apostrophe is not simply a way to say "Look out! Here comes an S!"

When I was working as an editor for an online game review site we had one reviewer who would actually put an apostrophe in EVERY SINGLE TIME a word ended in "s" -- it drove me insane. We didn't keep him around very long.

I (and my fellow Word Processors, who are pretty snappy on grammar and spelling) noticed when we first updated to Word at my office that there are NO correct plurals in Word's dictionary.

And now you know why I still use WordPerfect, even though my husband works for the Great Satan. Although, now that I think of it, WP may be as bad for all I know. (Speaking of evil things) I don't use grammar checkers. :-)
sillymagpie
Nov. 14th, 2003 11:20 pm (UTC)
I wish I could blame it all on spell check programs, but alas, I've seen mistakes in materials that were not made in a word processing program. The Arizona Republic columnist Clay Thompson even had to settle an argument between two women on how to pluralize "Smith."

I'm afraid we're reaping the results either of poor schooling or less than attentive students. Or both. Or perhaps people today don't read as much as they used to and don't internalize the examples from decent writing. (I innately understood the mechanics of punctuation long before I was taught the specifics of how to use it properly.)

Gods help me, I've known college graduates (one from Stanford!) who couldn't handle grammar and punctuation.

--Maggie
typographer
Nov. 15th, 2003 10:51 am (UTC)
First, I have to say that I'm not allowed to hurl this stone. I know the right rules, but when I'm typing at full speed, my fingers substitute things. The most amusing mistakes involve the "th" words. My fingers are liable to type virtually any word beginning with "th" when I get to one: a "that" where I meant "they" or what-have-you.

There's a reason why, no matter how horrible the deadlines are at work, I always get someone to proof my stuff.

One of my style books has an interesting essay about the 's -- how in the 19th Century it was used somewhat differently than now. But I can't find it. I thought that it was in Lapsing Into a Comma by Bill Walsh, but I couldn't find it. It also doesn't appear to be in </i>Woe is I</i> by Patricia O'Connor, or the Elements of Style.

There are at least two dozen more here just within arm's reach of the computer, but I'm obviously not going to find it today.
harrietthaspy
Nov. 17th, 2003 08:06 am (UTC)
(Mary) Smith's new convertible

The Smiths' new convertible

Even, the (black)smith's new convertible

But not, The Smith's new convertible

I hate spell/grammar check and have disabled it from my computer. It hates my long,in process sentences and I hate its color-coded underlinings, so we're both better off. The only thing I've been unable to fix is its insistance on putting beginning quotation marks instead of end quotation marks if I end dialogue with a hyphen. What I wind up doing is having to put the hypen in position AFTER I put in the end quotation marks to thwart its annoying evilness.
wildrider
Nov. 17th, 2003 08:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, there it is. This comment didn't load when I first loaded the page. :) Thanks for the correction! And I hear your pain about the --" problem with dialogue. I've been doing the same thing. :P
wildrider
Nov. 17th, 2003 08:36 pm (UTC)
Okay, it was pointed out to me that it shouldn't be "the Smith's new convertible," and that's right, it shouldn't. Could be "Mr. Smith's new convertible" or "Smith's new convertible," but as "Smiths" is plural, it would be "The Smiths' new convertible." Sorry about that. :) (Unless, of course, you know a Smith whose first name is The. Wouldn't that be cool?)

Unfortunately, I can't find that comment, although it did come to my email...
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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