Thursday, 27 November 2008

People can't use apostrophe's

(Before I get started, I deliberately put the apostrophe in the wrong place in the title!)

The Daily Mail reports that apostrophe misuse is among our most common grammatical mistakes and it is also the most annoying. Nearly half of those given a short punctuation test were unable to use the apostrophe properly. They were guilty of a variety of slip-ups. The first was a failure to understand that plural nouns in English do not take an apostrophe.

The commonest evidence of this transgression is on display in countless fruit and vegetable shops, with handwritten signs advertising apple's and pear's for sale - the classic greengrocer's apostrophe.

A second error is the failure to punctuate a possessive plural properly. Forty-six per cent of those who sat the test got this alarmingly wrong.

They were also asked which mistakes they found most irritating.

Replacement of they're with their was voted the most annoying, followed by the use of a greengrocer's apostrophe to denote a plural - as in the incorrect boy's instead of boys. Another infuriating howler was confusing its with it's - the first the possessive form of it and the second an abbreviation of the phrase it is.

In the punctuation test taken by 2,000 adults, teachers were most likely to get the answers right, with more than 80 per cent getting full marks. Journalists and those working in public relations came second, followed by lawyers and civil servants in third and fourth places. Workers in transport and distribution came bottom. Women not only scored higher marks than men, they also claimed to care more about incorrect punctuation.

Londoners came out on top as Britain's best regional punctuators, getting 78 per cent of the answers right.

Surprisingly, the over-55s were bottom of the league. The 25 to 34-year-olds came top.

Professor Christopher Mulvey, an expert from the Museum of the English Language at Winchester University, said: 'To get it right, you need to look up the rules every time you think an apostrophe might be needed - and do this for the next six months in order to internalise the rules.'

I found the comment at the bottom of the Daily Mail article frustrating: I agree, I hate bad grammar - drives me mad. Why do they not teach grammar properly in schools anymore? This person has clearly not read the article properly - teachers are most likely to use the apostrophe correctly. I don't think teachers and schools are the problem for apostrophe misuse - it's the media and retail that show a complete disregard for correct grammar and punctuation. Teachers teach the rules correctly, but if this is not followed through by the rest of society it makes the process worthless. Unless children see a need to use punctuation and grammar correctly then there's no point in doing so. And if they see the mess that certain people can make of punctuation then they aren't going to see why it's important.

No comments: