I’ve noticed in the last few years that many students have trouble with the use of the apostrophe (‘). The difference between “its” and “it’s” and “whose” and “who’s” is an age-old problem, but what seems new to me is a tendency to omit apostrophes altogether (for example, writing “My fathers boat” instead of “My father’s boat” or “doesnt” instead of “doesn’t”). If this applies to you, or if you’re not 100% how to use apostrophes, you could begin by looking at this brief but effective post on “Hyper Grammar.”
My prediction is that the apostrophe is on its way out. English spelling evolves, and this loss seems to me inevitable. Be that as it may, for the moment, it is still important to know how to use this punctuation mark correctly. Why? Well, in a sense, it’s the same as any spelling convention. Why does it matter if we spell T.S. Eliot with two tees (Elliott), as about half the class did in their assignment? I mean, after all, everyone knows who it is we’re talking about? I think the reason it matters is perhaps unfortunate, but it’s a reality. If you don’t know how to use apostrophes correctly, there is a chance that it will mark you negatively for at least some readers. Learning how to do it right is therefore of pragmatic importance, even if you can communicate just fine without it. To cite a plausible example, if you write a cover letter for a job, and you misuse apostrophes in it, there is a chance that the employer will take this as a sign of carelessness or inattention; most employers may not care, but why take that chance? Knowing how to write correctly is an excellent way to stand out as a detail-oriented person who cares about doing things right–and this will stand you in good stead in school as well as in professional life. In a sense, getting the grammar right is the same as making sure you format your essays or resume correctly.
Next topic on matters of grammar and style sentence fragments beginning with the adverbs “Although,” “though,” or “while.” Coming soon….