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The Dreaded, Dreadful Apostrophe.

You’re an experienced shopper, with over 100 shops under your belt. For the companies that reveal their scores to shoppers, you’re regularly an 8, a 9, or a 10.

You decide to spread your wings a little, and sign on with some new companies. You accept an assignment that has a nice bonus, and even sounds like fun! You print out all the paperwork, take the test drive, and sit down to write your report. “Egad,” you think, “they want me to write a book!”

But you trudge through, in great detail, and submit your report. You awaken the next morning, and check the website. Your report is red-flagged on “HOLD”. Why? Errors in grammar.

In this and following columns, we’ll attack some of the most vexing and common grammar errors. We’ll give some simple tips for avoiding the most common errors in the hopes your next report flies through the editing process!

At the top of the list of common grammar errors is the misuse of the apostrophe. Here are some of of the common problems with apostrophes, along with ways to avoid them.

Apostrophe Problem No. 1: Using contractions, such as can’t for cannot, won’t for will not, doesn’t for does not. The apostrophe is an indication of a missing letter, or of missing letters.

Solution: Avoid contractions. In fact, there is a school of thought that contractions have no acceptable place in “formal” writing; business writing is considered “formal”. And our reports to our MSCs are business writing. So just spell it out. You might even find this improves your overall writing, as it tends to lead to the short, declarative sentences beloved of editors everywhere!

Apostrophe Problem No.2: Using the apostrophe to show the possessive form: Felix’ house; the company’s policy; the policeman’s badge.

Solution: Reword your sentence: We went to the house where Felix lives; the company has a policy against that; the policeman showed his badge.

Apostrophe Problem No. 3: Using an apostrophe to show a plural.

Solution: Never, EVER, use an apostrophe to indicate the plural of anything — no matter how many times you’ve seen DVD’s, CD’s, or VHS’s, it’s still incorrect. As is MSC’s. Of course, it is correct to use DVD’s in the possessive; for example, “the DVD’s case was damaged” is referring to the case that is “owned by” the DVD. If all the cases of all the DVDs are damaged, one would write “the DVDs’ cases were damaged”.

The best method to avoid the misuse of the apostrophe in such a case is to rewrite for a short, declarative sentence (or two): ” We received 300 DVDs this morning. All the cases were damaged.”

In closing, for your amusement, please remember that many editors do not understand the correct use of the apostrophe.

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