The greengrocer’s apostrophe – a fellow ranter shares my pain

Posted by | September 18, 2011 | Writing and Editing | No Comments
I've long admired Imre Salusinky's articles. Back in the 90s I used to read his column in the Australian Financial Review. Now he's with The Australian, and a regular contribution to its The Wry Side column. Imre also writes a regular column in the weekend edition, and this week's column is near and dear to my heart. Imre is ranting about the inappropriate use of apostrophes, and, briefly, the misuse and lack of use of the semi-colon; one only seems to see the semi-colon as part of a winking smiley these days. Here's the link to Imre's blog post, but I'll quote my favourite bit below. "THE apostrophe is the plaster gnome in the garden of written English: ubiquitous, decorative and often unnecessary. While the semicolon (or "winking comma") is disappearing because younger writers don't understand how to use it, its evil cousin the apostrophe is spreading like privet. But success may prove the undoing of the "flying comma", with experts saying the time for a comprehensive weeding program has arrived. When a colleague recently pointed me to the website of a Melbourne outfit called Craig Thomson Entertainment, I was struck less by the coincidence in the company's name than by the labels on the links to its various services, which include: "duo's," "venue's" and "wedding's". This is the famous "greengrocer's apostrophe" (or, arguably, "greengrocers' apostrophe") so named because the superfluous apostrophe is reputedly a common feature on hastily scribbled blackboards advertising today's prices of "apple's," "tomato's" and so on." I do love the idea of the "greengrocer's apostrophe". That description encompasses the widespread misuse in the retail industry of this humble but pretty item of punctuation. I urge you to read the entire article - and think carefully about your punctuation in everything you write!

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