This abuse happens when apostrophes are used incorrectly, but there is also another form of this abuse, and if I could have only one pet peeve as an editor it would be apostrophes facing the wrong way.
Apostrophes are used to show possessive nouns (Jack’s, Jill’s) and contractions of pronouns (she’s, he’s) and omissions of letters like in contractions (don’t, can’t, won’t), or other missing letters or numbers (Class of ’14, twist ‘n’ shout).*
[*For the sake of full disclosure, Cherie Reich spotted my error in the paragraph above. I’ve since made my changes. See the comments below.]
Regardless of how it’s used, the apostrophe should face away from the word whether using straight or curly quotes.
The following is an example of the sentence, “It’s about time.” The examples below show how the apostrophe is used to denote the missing letter “a” in the word “about.”
Correct: It’s ’bout time.
Incorrect: It’s ‘bout time.
If you saw the following, wouldn’t you be able to tell that something wasn’t right?
So why is it so hard for writers to make sure their apostrophes face the correct way? In my opinion, there are three reasons.
1) They don’t know how to do it while typing.
The first one is easy to address, so let’s do it now.
Unless you’re making a contraction, hitting the apostrophe key won’t work when trying to show omission if you’re using curly quotes. The way you get the apostrophe to face the correct way is to type two single quotes with no space between them:
Delete the first quote and you get:
Got it? It’s ’bout time! If there is another, faster way to do this, please let me know, but this is simple enough.
It doesn’t matter whether your word processing program is set (or you set it) to use curly (smart) quotes or straight (dumb) quotes. Unless your straight quotes are completely straight up-and-down, even so-called “straight” quotes will have a slant to them.
However, issues 2 and 3 represent a personal problem with the writer, and if they want their writing to be taken seriously, they need to step up their game or just quit. Yes, I said it.
Some of you reading this may think I’m overreacting, but in my opinion, this is what separates serious writers (and editors) who care about the craft of writing and want to present a professional image and those writers (and editors) who don’t give a damn.
Besides, I’m not just a writer, I am also a READER. Don’t insult my intelligence or your reading audience’s intelligence by thinking that no one will notice or care. Recently on my [REALITY CHECK] blog I wrote a post about having respect for your readers. Check it out.
I’m not the only person out there who hates this kind of sloppiness. Don’t believe me? Here’s another blog post with a rather sexy title.
“Apostrophes don’t swing both ways,” by Julie Elman.
It may have been written in 2007, but suffice it to say that it is still an issue today.
I am not alone. If you read Elman’s post you will find there are groups that have united over this issue.
“My name is Legion: for we are many.”
Here are some examples of apostrophe abuse.
And you know cats have to have their say:
©2014. Zetta Brown