What makes me crazy / Are apostrophes in signs / Know the one's I mean?Hold onto your dictionaries; it’s National Grammar Day!

You can thank Martha Brockenbrough and the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG) for this glorious day (haha). She founded SPOGG in 2008 “for people appalled by bad grammar in public spaces.”

The date of March 4 represents a complete and grammatically correct sentence, as in, “march forth and celebrate National Grammar Day.”

One of my grammar peeves is the mishandling of apostrophes, usually added where they shouldn’t be. You’ll often see them on Christmas cards (“Greetings from the Brown’s!”) or in stores (“banana’s on sale”), where they are nicknamed “grocer’s apostrophes.”

According to The Canadian Press Stylebook, use an apostrophe:

  • To show possession: children’s toys
  • To show letters or figures are missing: it’s for it is
  • With verbs formed from capitals: X’d out
  • In plurals of lowercase letters: mind your p’s and q’s.

Do not use an apostrophe:

  • With plurals of capital letters or numbers, like the ABCs or the 1960s (unless it might be confusing: A’s in math are hard to come by)
  • To form the plural of expressions like the whys and wherefores
  • With shortened words that have become common, like phone or gym.

Misused apostrophesIn the sign here, there’s no apostrophe on farmers (more on that in a second), and maybe the sign maker felt something was missing. That may account for the grocer’s apostrophes on what should be Thursdays & Saturdays.

In some circles, Farmers’ market is correct, indicating that more than one farmer is involved in the market and it is a market for farmers. Farmer’s market suggests one farmer is involved so probably wins no votes. Others disagree about the number involved, saying “farmers” is a descriptive phrase, not possessive, so doesn’t need an apostrophe.

Choose wisely; grammar nerds may judge you on your choice. Although let me assure my friends and family, I roll my eyes for companies who should hire a proofreader, not you.

But back to National Grammar Day. This year’s “fun” included a tweeted poetry contest (deadline was March 3, sorry) and a word chat. From this year’s host, Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty, you’ll find such resources as a Spotify list with top tips about using myriad, “apostrophe mayhem,” the passive voice and more.

March forth and proudly wave your grammar nerd flag.

Related reading:
Last year’s post includes examples of spelling by ear
My haiku originally appeared in this post about punctuation
Some examples of seasonal apostrophe abuse