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Archive for the tag “Writing Quirks”

AAA – Avoid Apostrophe Atrocities – Go to Gary’s for Breakfast

After church services most summer Sundays, our little bunch of Margate-by-the-Sea (NJ) choir members (one soprano, one female tenor, two basses, and two choir groupies) goes out for breakfast.

We gather around the shiny black piano after services and begin our conversation.

Janice Heck, photo of Gary's Restaurant

Gary owns the restaurant so it is called Gary’s Restaurant, or just Gary’s for short.

Well, where share we go today?

Sal’s? Gary’s? Fitzpatick’s? Ozzie’s? Isabella’s, Jon and Patty’s?

Fitzpatrick’s, Sal’s, Ozzie’s, Isabelle’s, and Jon and Patty’s get nixed rapidly. The shoobie crowd (summer visitors to the shore) pack out these places on summer Sunday mornings.

That leaves Gary’s, our favorite offshore breakfast place.

Not only does Gary serve good breakfasts, his quaint, offshore restaurant is far away from the madding beach crowds. And, best of all, Gary knows how to use apostrophes correctly!  Five stars for him.

Common Writing Error: Substituting Plurals and Possessives (Apostrophes)

Although it seems like a simple matter to a grammar geek like me, people constantly confuse words that need or don’t need apostrophes. Facebook, Twitter, other social media sites abound with this apostrophe atrocity.

And greengrocers? They thrive on making this common error. But don’t let sign makers or bumper sticker printers off the hook. They help to perpetuate this mistake. Check out this especially egregious example of incorrect apostrophe use.

apostrophe abuse found by Tina in Naples, FL. Posted on Apostropheatrocitiesdotcom

Apostrophe abuse found by Tina in Naples, Florida. Posted on Apostrophe Atrocities dot com

Most common writing errors lists include the notoriously abused, misused, or totally ignored apostrophe. Blogs dedicated to finding and posting pictures of blatant misuse of apostrophes ridicule this particular writing error. (See Apostrophe Catastrophes and Apostrophe Abuse.) The misuse of the apostrophe is high on the list of a grammar geek’s pet peeves.

Strunk & White, in The Elements of Style, list the possessive apostrophe on nouns as the first item of importance on their list of “Elementary Rules of Usage.” In fact, apostrophes are taught in school at about the third grade and reviewed every school year after that, ad nauseum. (See Are You Smarter Than a Third Grader?)

Yet apostrophes are still frequently misused, much to the horror of Lynn Truss. This author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves (2003) calls apostrophe errors

satanic sprinklings of redundant apostrophes that cause no little gasp of horror or quickening of the pulse…

Her book is about stuff we grammar geeks love but non-geeks and grammar-phobes don’t care about.

Two Questions Solve the Apostrophe Problem

When it comes to apostrophes, ask two questions.

1. Are there more than one?  If so, just add -s.

Two or more of the same thing = plural.

Two copies of one noun.

Two aardvarks, three curmudgeons, four geezers, five egomaniacs, six gastroenterologists, seven hyenas, ten apes, eleven orangutans,
…and last, but not least, twelve grammar geeks…

You get the idea. Two or more copies of one noun. Just add -s.

If you can count it, just add -s.

2. Does someone own something? An apostrophe shows ownership, possession, or connection of some sort.

When two distinct nouns have a connection, the first noun is the owner and earns the apostrophe.  See Abbey’s Alphabet for a quick review of possessives.)

Gary owns his little breakfast money-maker, so he calls it

Gary’s Restaurant.

Same with Fitzpatrick’s, Sal’s, Ozzie’s, and Isabella’s.

Fitzpatrick’s Deli
Sal’s Coal Fired Pizza (yes, they serve breakfast and pizza)
Ozzie’s Luncheonette
Isabella’s Ventnor Café

Here’s Where It Gets Tricky:  Possessives with Two Owners

What about restaurants that have two owners and both want their personal names in the restaurant name?

What should Jon and Patty call their restaurant?  What should Steve and Cookie call their restaurant? How about Chickie and Pete?

The rule is that only the second owner’s name gets the apostrophe, so the restaurant name should be written like this:

Jon and Patty’s Coffee Bar and Bistro
Steve and Cookie’s (Restaurant) By the Bay

Gary gets his apostrophes right on his kid’s menu as well. Five more stars.

Menu with apostrophes. Photo, Janice Heck

Of course, you will see this rule broken from time to time:

 Chickie’s and Pete’s Crab House and Sports Bar

Chickie and Pete couldn’t agree on who got the apostrophe, so they both (incorrectly) claimed one.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to make this error in neon lights!

Instead of going to that crab house next time you want a good breakfast, go to Gary’s. You’ll love his omelets. Or, if you’re not so hungry, have a grilled cheese sandwich from the kid’s menu. And thank Gary for getting his apostrophes right!

Summer sunday-GAry's 017 (2)

 

Your Turn:

What are your English grammar, usage, and punctuation pet peeves?

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If you are a grammar geek, or just a person who wants to be sure that you use the best grammar and punctuation in all writing situations, then consider following this blog. Just click on the link on the sidebar to the left of this post. Thanks.

This post is one in a series on Writing Quirks. More Writing Quirks can be found on my other blog: Janice Heck

Graphic by Janice Heck

 

What? Another Blog on Writing?

Three years ago, on a lark, I started my first blog: Janice Heck: My Time to Write. After writing 370 posts and getting over 52,000 hits, I decided it was time to reevaluate that blog and plan my next steps. You can read that post here: Dear Readers: On Flying Deeper into the Blogosphere.

One conclusion of that post: I want/need to focus more on writing process and writing craft to help developing writers become more effective writers.

My first blog is an eclectic blog, on which I write about such topics as CATS, travel, photography, current events, food, recipes, book reviews, family, senior health issues, and eldercare. And then I write about writing topics: grammar, usage, punctuation, writing quirks, common writing errors, “fix-its” for common errors, and effective writing tips.

Quite a mix, isn’t it?

Here is my new, more focused blog for developing writers:

Janice Heck Writes: Power-up Your Writing! Build Your Writing craft.

The goal of this blog is to help writers “Power-up” their writing by learning more about writing following this model:

Graphic by Janice Heck

Writers often hear such terms as passive voice, parallel structure, serial commas, dependent clauses, cumulative sentences, periodic sentences, and many more. But just as often, these terms seem a bit fuzzy, especially to newish writers.

The focus on this new blog will be to un-fuzzy these terms by using…

  • Grammar-You-Can-See
  • Usage-You-Can-See
  • Punctuation-You-Can-See
  • Writing Quirks and Fix-its

Wordy Grammar Books

Pick a grammar book at random and what do you see?  Pages and pages of words telling about grammar, showing an example or two, then giving incorrect sentences to edit. Sometimes the grammatical term receives little more than an honorable mention: “Don’t use passive voice.”

In this new blog, I take a writing tip and show you, with graphics, how the grammar (or usage or punctuation) works so you can translate it into your own writing.

Other posts will focus on qualities that enhance your writing as well as common writing problems that interfere with effective writing.

Writing Strategies

To give you an idea of what the posts on Power-up Your Writing! Build Your Writing Craft will look like, take a peek at a few posts from my first eclectic blog: (Posts written for the annual A to Z Challenge held every April):

Coming soon: Look for my first official post on this blog here: One Tired, Tarnished Writing Tip…and Six Twists.

So come along for the ride. Ask questions and leave comments. I would love to hear from you.

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Janice HeckJanice Heck, retired educator/administrator, hosts two blogs:

Janice Heck: My Time to Write, an eclectic topic blog.

Janice Heck Writes: Power-up Your Writing! Build Your Writing Craft.

She is co-leader of the Cumberland County chapter of the New Jersey Society of Christian Writers along with Kathryn Ross of The Writer’s Reverie.

Over the years, Jan has given workshops on writing for schools, local and national special education and general conferences, and has published Evaluating and Improving Written Expression: A Practical Guide for Teachers (Janice K. Hall, Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1981; Pro-Ed,  1988, 1999). That book is now an OOP (out-of-print).

Jan’s favorite retirement activities are traveling, blogging, singing in the church choir, eating out, and collecting old grammar books.

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