Sharon Colon's Theory Page

  My Theory on Increasing Apostrophe Errors

Dear Reader,

I was standing on Bondi Junction railway station on 13th April 1999, reading a billboard. It was a long, wordy ad for Yahoo, the sort of ad on stations provided for you to read while waiting for the train. It was full of apostrophes but no errors.

The following theory / explanation came to me...

(1) Once upon a time ads said things like "We have the greatest range of plumbing in the Eastern Suburbs. We pride ourselves on our sinks. A visit to our shop will be well worthwhile." (The reader has to judge the truth of the above statements, it was once considered presumptuous to tell the reader what to think.)

(2) Now adverts say "You'll love every minute of your visit as you select the sink of your dreams" (The reader is told what to think, it's everybody's right to love and to dream, so it's very hard to disagree with the proposition. Frequently motherhood statements are mixed in, so the truth is self evident and undeniable - "Everyone loves babies and that's why you'll adore our new range of strollers and prams.")

(3) The above is an example of a major swing in our language to a colloquial, face to face style of communications, even when it's written. It has a lot of abbreviations, which do not normally appear in print except in dialogue, words such as you'll and he's and your train's late. Print ads for example never used this language until they started telling people what to think. (Radio has spoken to listeners as individuals for a long time, but it has never been written down.)

(4) The masses do not understand this shift in mass communications for what it is. Instead they have perceived the newly-visible apostrophe as a mark of friendliness, face to face communication, personalised just for you.

(5) At the same time email has exploded on the scene. It's a new medium of mass communication, an outpouring of the need to communicate. But compared with a face to face meeting, or even a telephone call, it is relatively impersonal. It also lacks the look of a hand written letter. As a consequence, adding apostrophes somehow personalises and softens the communication. It does not matter that they are wrong. The need for the apostrophe is the need for personal face to face contact.

(6) The education system was totally unprepared for this unexpected literary endeavour by the masses (especially by young people, the so-called TV generation bred on visual images and video games and passive spectator events for their entertainment) and consequently teachers have not catered for this sudden shift from essay writing to written colloquial communication. Teachers will claim they have always taught the apostrophe but the results prove otherwise and hidden forces governing the use of the apostrophe may be at work.

(7) Purists such as myself would like to see the apostrophe used correctly. However the worst case scenario is that any formal use of the apostrophe might be abandoned, to be replaced by added apostrophe's as marker's of each internet user's signalling their personal emphasis' to they're reader's whether they be ladie's or gentlemen. You're email writing style goe's from strength to strength and will soon be at it's best.

Yours sincerely,


Last updated - Monday 28th December, 2015.

Top        Sharon's Menu Page     Sharon's Home Page