Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Mighty Apostrophe

fter a week off, that ended up being two, I am back; and I'm about to make up for them both over here in the grammar department by tackling a punctuation topic that is always a major source of confusion: the apostrophe. The most mistakes that see in writing, other than commas, are usually in relation to the poor little apostrophe: the one who get's thrown into everything he shouldn't and left out of everything he should be levitating proudly over.

There is so much detail this week so I have color coded in an attempt to simplify: rules are in coral; notes or special points are in seafoam; examples are bulleted.

There are three main ways apostrophes are used:

{ to create contractions }
{ to show possession }
{ to create some plural forms }

Use an apostrophe where letters are omitted to create a contraction.
  • there's = there is or there has
  • can't = cannot
  • won't = will not
  • she'll = she will
  • he's = he is or he has
  • I'm = I am
  • Hilly's = Hilly is or Hilly has
  • Skeeter's = Skeeter is or Skeeter has
  • he'd = he would or he could
  • y'all = you all

Sometimes there's is a mix-up as to where the apostrophe should go in y'all; just remember that most of the time (You know how there aren't many absolutes in English grammar.) it goes where letter(s) is/are omitted, so in y'all it is replacing the ou in you all.

However, the main contraction issue I see is this:

  • {1a} Its the best day of my life.
  • {2a} The dolphin dove over the wave showing it's fin.

Pretty much the rule is opposite:
its = possessive
it's = contraction for it is

  • {1b} It's the best day of my life.
  • {2b} The dolphin dove over the wave showing its fin.

Next to it's/its, the most common issue, hands-down, is possessives for this simple reason: awkwardness.
If something sounds awkward we automatically assume that it is incorrect. Well, I hate to say it; but in this case, you can't trust your awkward instinct.

{ The Rule: If the word is singular, you add an -'s. }
  • Mrs. White's cake was perfect.
  • Lanie's hat was a bit too much for her outfit.
  • Thomas's truck is covered in mud!
  • Davis's haircut left him bald!
  • Mr. Jones's lawnmower ran over Mr. Williams's weed eater.
Here is an interesting note for you word geeks: I received a call from an attorney in my mom's law firm not too long ago. He wanted to know the possessive form of executrix. (Executrix is the feminine of executor in reference to an estate or will.) He thought that executrix's sounded awkward and cumbersome; it does. However, it's correct.

Now, when forming the possession of a singular noun that ends in -s or with the s sound, add only an apostrophe if the noun has two or more syllables and if the addition of ‘s will make the noun
awkward to pronounce.
  • Samuel Clemens’ pen name was Mark Twain.
  • For goodness’ sake, Tootie, try to behave!
  • For appearance’ sake, I will wear a suit to court.

~ I realize that sounds completely contradictory, but such is the world of English grammar. ~

Here's another random exception:

Add just an apostrophe when using the singular possessive form of classical and Biblical names ending in -s.

  • Jesus’ disciples carried out his teachings.
  • Achilles’ battles are recorded in the Iliad.

~ Now, back to your comfort zone where you knew you were right. ~

Add an apostrophe to show the possessive case of plural nouns ending in -es or -s.
  • The boys’ T-shirts need washing.
  • The Joneses’ house is being renovated.
  • The trees’ leaves are turning colors.
  • The Greens’ barbecue is tomorrow.

Add an apostrophe and an -s to show the possessive case of plural nouns that DO NOT end in -es or -s.
  • The children’s toys are in the bedroom.
  • They found the mice’s tunnels.
  • The women’s tournament is today.
  • The oxen’s harnesses are too tight.

Add an apostrophe and an s (or just an apostrophe if the word is a plural ending in -s) to the last word of a compound noun to form the possessive case.
  • He bought some Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder.
  • The Red Cross’s need for blood is imminent.
  • My father-in-law’s ranch is in Wyoming.
  • King Henry VIII’s fourth wife was from Germany.
  • Both my brothers-in-law's last names are Taylor.
  • McKinley High School’s mascot is the titan.
  • I want to eat at Johnson and Sons' Ranch House tonight.

Now, when you are talking about joint possession here's how it works:
  • Jim and Pam's house (They have joint ownership of the house.)
  • Regis and Kelly's talk show (They share the show.)
  • Ryan's and Kelly's dogs (They each have their own dog.)
  • Mac's and PC's operating systems (They each have their own operating systems.)

{ Randomness }
My, his, hers, theirs, ours, yours, etc. never need apostrophes because they are already possessive.

Indefinite pronouns always need an 's to become possessive because they are considered singular.
*Indefinite pronouns = anyone, anybody, anything, no one, someone, something, somebody, anything, anyone, another, etc.

{ Years }
Place the apostrophe where the missing numbers would go.
  • The class of '99 is having a reunion.
  • I will graduate from design school in May '12.

Note: Do not use this form for academic or professional writing; use the form below.

{ Dates/Decades }
Surprise! You can go either way!
  • She was born in the 1980s.
  • She was born in the 1980's.

{ Numbers, Symbols, Letters, and Words }
Use an apostrophe and an s to write the plurals of numbers, symbols, letters, and words used to name themselves:
  • Cross your t’s and dots your i’s.
  • You have too many and’s in this sentence.
  • There are two o’s in the word choose.
  • Are those 5's or 6's?

Here is something else: you may add only an s to the form the plurals of uppercase letters if the plural forms cannot be misread.
  • Most of his grades this term are Bs.
Note: Whatever you decide to do, be sure to use the apostrophe consistently.
  • Most of his grades in high school were A’s and B’s.

To form the plurals of abbreviations followed by periods, add ‘s .
  • Dwight has two Ph. D.'s!

To form the plurals of abbreviations NOT followed by periods, add either ‘s or s.
  • He bought five new CD’s. He bought five new CDs.

I hope this helped you with any questions that you may have had about apostrophes. 
If you have any lingering questions, feel free to shoot me a message anytime. 

***Shout Outs***

June Freaking Cleaver: She requested that I cover this topic - check her out!

I'll let you know if I gave you a "Shout Out to Check Out," then you can post the button to your blog...if you want.

And, yes, that is MY mouth in the button. =)


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What Effect Will This Affective Post Have on You?

To begin with, I am going to run over the parts of speech for those who are still a little rusty because what's the point in telling one word is an adjective and one is an adverb when you don't know the difference?

noun A word or phrase that names a person, place, thing, quality, or act (Zac, New York, table, beauty, execution ). 
verb A word or phrase that expresses action, existence, or occurrence (throw, be, happen ). 
adjective A word or combination of words that modifies a noun (blue-green, central, half-baked, temporary ).
adverb A word that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb (slowly, obstinately, much ). Most of time an adverb ends in -ly.
conjunction A word that connects other words, phrases, or sentences (and, but, or, because ).
interjection A word, phrase, or sound used as an exclamation and capable of standing by itself (oh, Lord, my goodness ).
preposition A word or phrase that shows the relationship of a noun to another noun (at, by, in, to, from, with )
pronoun A word that substitutes for a noun and refers to a person, place, thing, idea, or act. (he, she, it, that ).

{Week 2}
Affect vs. Effect
I am covering the most common uses.
I think it will answer your questions. If not, you know what to do.

Affect - Affect is a verb. It means to produce an effect or to influence.
--> Here's a shortcut to help you remember: Affect = Action <--

Effect - Effect is a noun. It is a result or meaning. It can also be personal property or sound, lighting, or scenery like in a play or movie.

Now, there are derivatives of each that bend these definitions.

For example:

  • The storm effected the shoreline. 

Here effected is used a verb meaning to bring about or to happen.


  • It was an affective account of her trip to Haiti.
  • To prevent being affected by the flu virus, I had to wear a very stylish paper mask.

Here affective is an adjective

***Shout Outs***

Bethany @ The Organic Enchilada: She requested that I cover this topic - check her out!
Torrie @ A Place to Share - Her blog is under construction, and we'll link up with her when she's ready!

I'll let you know if if I gave you a "Shout Out to Check Out," then you can post the button to your blog...if you know if you have room. No biggie. =)

And, yes, that is MY mouth in the button. =)


Next week we will start some punctuation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Too Much For You Two To Do

If you read this post/PINT then you knew this was coming. Those of you awesome ladies who gave some ideas in your comments, you, my friends, are getting a "Check Out/Shout Out"!

This is the first official Grammar-On-the-Go. I am not promising it will be on the same day every single week, but for right now it will be Wednesdays. 

***I am NOT judging ANYONE by their grammar skills.***

I see the blogging world as a place to be released from the chains of some grammar restrictions and use crazy spelling and alternative punctuation, but some of you have sent me emails and messages stating that you want to improve your writing.

Plus, I am one of the main ones who loves to spell things a little crazy-like for emphasis (i.e. "puh-leez").

I received so many emails, messages, and comments following my post on the non-existent word "alot" that it inspired me to start this little weekly "enlightenment." 

(I won't say "lesson" because, that's just plain intimidating.)

I have been out of the classroom for almost a year, and it is killing me.

 I love teaching and helping folks with new or difficult aspects of Language Arts.

One more thing: if you can give me lesson enlightenment topics to cover, when I do, your blog gets a Check Out/Shout Out! In other words, I am giving you a shout out so my readers will check out your blog. 

Here we go...

Welcome to the first ever "Grammar-On-the-Go" with me - Bethany!

The idea of these quick tips are to help writers (and speakers) with common mistakes, not so common mistakes, and habits in an easy, quick, breezy manner: hence "…on-the-go."

By the way, CCW = Commonly Confused Words.


I know for most of the writers out there this is a given; however, you will not believe how many blogs that I have read that misuse these. It also happens all of the time if you are typing in a hurry because spellcheck will not catch it.

{ TO } 

Use the word to when you are talking about an extent or direction.

Ex. 1 - Chris P. Kreem went to the wrong party. 

Ex. 2 - Ella Mentry needed to go to therapy.

{ TOO }

Use too when you are talking about something in addition to or to an excess.

Ex. 1 - Supah had too much fun at Swan Lake.

Ex. 2 - She wanted to take a nap, too.


{ TWO }

You better already know this one, if not it's too late; let's review.
The word two represents the number 2.

Ex. 1 - The mother said to the teller at the window, "I am going to need two and a half lollipops."

Ex. 2 - Leigha Tard opened door number two.

{ TUTU }

I have to admit that I added this just because it rhymed and looks cute.
A tutu is a ballet dancer costume that has a bodice with sleeves maybe or a skirt.

Ex. 1 - I have always looked scary in a tutu.

Ex. 2 - That tutu is too small for her to wear! <---Ta Da…Did you see that: all four forms?!

***Shout Out***

Subfertile Frugalista : because she requested that I cover this topic - check her out!

I'll let you know if if I gave you a "Shout Out to Check Out," then you can post the button to your blog...if you know if you have room. No biggie. =)

And, yes, that is MY mouth in the button. =)