[DWJ] A grammar realization - Where are we from?

Colin Fine colin at kindness.demon.co.uk
Fri Apr 13 10:58:20 EDT 2007

Minnow wrote:
> Otter:
>>>> Pointless pedantry requires me to point out that the second "it's" in
>>>> that paragraph should be "its".
> Philip:
>>> Not pointless.  It's a typing error I often make, and frequently fail
>>> to spot.
>>> After years of being told, and telling people, that "it's" means "it
>>> is", I realised only the other day that I frequently use "it's" to mean
>>> "it has".  But "it's" to mean "its" is a typing error to which I freely
>>> confess.
> Otter:
>> That's okay.  As a mercer, you are allowed the occasional
>> greengro'cer's a'postr'ophe.
>> I've gotten to the point where I have to carefully check it's/its
>> every time because I've gotten confused.  My suggestions for
>> a solution is that apostrophes be eliminated.  I'd rather have
>> none than too many.
> My reason for wanting to keep the apostrophe is simple: just because some
> people get it wrong, that isn't a reason to make it so that *nobody* can
> get it right.  If a spelling or a punctuation will make what one is trying
> to say clearer to the reader, then it shouldn't be thrown out.  There *is*
> a difference of meaning between "the words" and "the word's", and having a
> way of indicating that difference makes reading a sentence containing one
> or the other just a bit easier.
> Dashitall, many people find reading difficult enough already: why make it
> even *more* hard work for them by taking away one more of the conventional
> ways to help sort out meaning?  We wouldn't say "Oh, a lot of people get
> the colours of the roads wrong when they are drawing or reading a map, so
> we won't have green for major roads, red for lesser A-roads and yellow for
> B-roads any more, we'll just colour them all red except for the blue
> motorways."
> I'd rather that the writer should check if it ought to be "its" or "it's"
> than that the reader should have to.  It seems only fair, somehow.  I'm the
> one who wants to get something across, so it ought to be *my* business to
> make it clear.
> Minnow

Yes, I know, there are cases where potential ambiguities in writing can 
be clarified in speech, by stress, pause etc. And if all else fails, in  
conversation you can ask for clarification.
But the instances where otherwise clear writing is changed or rendered 
ambiguous by a misplaced apostrophe are rare as rocking-horse dung. (I 
carefully said 'otherwise clear', because I am convinced that if you do 
find an example where a misplaced apostrophe leads you astray you will 
usually find that the expression is far from clear anyway).

The only function of the apostrophe is to let snooty people look down 
their noses at others. Get rid of it.


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