Saturday, February 19, 2005


That Darned Apostrophe

David Vestal points out that "troops" isn't even a word. "Troop" is already plural, the singular being "trooper." This is one of those cases where usage is going to have its way, though, as with the repulsive deployment of "impact" as a verb. We should really just say "soldiers."

There are a few more strange errors that seem to be ubiquitous on the internet. One is a persistent misspelling of "lose." People write "loose" instead. Unless usage has sanctioned a mere misspelling, "loose" is still the opposite of "tight," whereas the opposite of "win" is "lose."

A traditional error that has always been widespread is that #$%! apostrophe with the word it. A majority of people just never know where to put it. For the record--though it will do no good in any general sense--plurals don't get apostrophes. You don't pull on your short's and take your basket's and your blanket's to the beach. Just add the "s." Cameras. Lamborghinis. Brats. Like that.

It's when something belongs to something that the apostrophe kicks in--except with the word it. Then it's its. For purposes of self-defensive grammar, just remember that, first of all, there is no such construction as its', with the apostrophe after the s. There are only two possibilities: its and it's. And to tell the two apart, just remember that the apostrophe always has to replace something.

It's too bad: the apostrophe replaces the "i" in "is." It is too bad.

The dog bit its owner; the owner bit it back. Possessive: no apostrophe.

It's been too long! The apostrophe replaces the "ha" in "has." It has been too long.

It's in its case. The female mantis ate its mate. Its eggs were then eaten by birds.

I could go on, but aren't you glad I won't?

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