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How Did They Get In Here?

Writers today have problems keeping their sentences internally consistent. This is especially true of print journalists. Because of staff cutbacks at financially challenged newspapers, many articles are proofread hastily, if at all.

Combine that with the shocking decline in Americans’ English language skills over the last fifty years or so and you get sentences unworthy of the average sixth-grader in 1963. Here is a sentence from a recent article in a major metropolitan newspaper on the West Coast: “Each side in the condo fight has spent more than $350,000 on their campaigns…”

Everything is fine until that jarring “their” at the end. Go back to the subject: “each side.” The writer is talking about two things but is taking them one at a time—each side has spent, not have spent. So writing “their” confounds the ground rules of the sentence. It’s like setting the table with a fork and then eating with your hands.

This is an easy one to fix: “Each side in the condo fight has spent more than $350,000 on its campaign…”

 

POP QUIZ

The following sentences or fragments from recent print or broadcast media reflect contemporary bad habits. Can you fix them?

1. McDonalds is doing everything they can to shift costs to operators.
2. There needs to be better screening and a more foolproof monitoring system.
3. East Haven, Conn. plane crash…
4. No listener is ever happy with how much time they get.
5. He didn’t believe in the peoples’ right to know.

 

POP QUIZ ANSWERS

1. McDonalds is doing everything it can to shift costs to operators.
2. There need to be better screening and a more foolproof monitoring system.
3. East Haven, Conn., plane crash…
4. No listeners are ever happy with how much time they get.
5. He didn’t believe in the people’s right to know.

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Posted on Sunday, August 11, 2013, at 11:06 am


Its vs. It’s

Would you like to know the #1 Grammar Error?
Hint:
The word involved is small and it’s contained in this sentence.

That’s right: its vs. it’s
Yet the two rules are actually quite easy to remember.

Rule 1: When you mean it is or it has, use an apostrophe.

Examples:
It’s a nice day.
It’s your right to refuse the invitation.
It’s been great getting to know you.

Rule 2: When you are using its as a possessive, don’t use the apostrophe.

Examples:
The cat hurt its paw.
The furniture store celebrated its tenth anniversary.

 
Note: From what we understand, the possessive was also written it’s until a couple of hundred years ago. While we don’t know for certain, it is possible that the apostrophe was dropped in order to parallel possessive personal pronouns like hers, theirs, yours, ours, etc.”

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Posted on Thursday, April 12, 2012, at 5:35 pm


The Apostrophe with Numbers, Letters, and Abbreviations

Rule 1: The plurals for capital letters and numbers above nine do not require apostrophes, but some use them anyway.

Examples:
She learned her ABCs.
(some writers prefer ABC’s)
the 1990s (some writers prefer 1990′s)

Rule 2: For clarity, most writers use apostrophes with single capital letters and single-digit numbers.

Examples:
Please dot your I’s.
She learned her times tables for 6′s and 7′s.

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Posted on Monday, November 9, 2009, at 10:28 am


Apostrophes with Names

Question: How do you form the plural of a proper noun that ends in y like Murphy? Should you change the name to Murphies as in I visited the Murphies yesterday?

Answer: No. Never change the spelling of a name to show the plural form.

Example: I visited the Murphys yesterday.

Question: How do you show possession for a name that ends in y?

Answer: To show singular possession, use the apostrophe and then the s.

Example: I petted Mrs. Murphy’s cat.

To show plural possession, always make the noun plural first, then use the apostrophe.

Example: I petted the Murphys’ cat.

Example: I visited the Murphys’ store on Main Street.

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Posted on Thursday, October 22, 2009, at 10:01 am


Apostrophes with Names Ending in s, ch, or z

Are you confused about how to show the plural and the possessive of certain names? Maybe you know to write I met the Smiths, I drove Brenda Smith’s Ferrari, and I visited the Smiths’ house. But what if the name is Sanchez or Church or Williams?

Rule: To show the plural of a name that ends with a ch, s, or z sound, add es. If a name ends in ch, but is pronounced with a hard k sound, its plural will require s, rather than es.

Examples:
The Sanchezes will be over soon.
The Thomases moved away.
The Churches have arrived but the Bohmbachs are running late.

Rule: To show singular possession of a name ending in ch or z, use the apostrophe and another s.

Examples:
Harry Birch’s house
Mrs. Sanchez’s children

Rule: To show singular possession of a name ending in s, some writers add just an apostrophe. Others also add another s.

Example:
Bill Williams’ car OR Bill Williams’s car

Rule: To show plural possession of a name ending in s, ch, or z, form the plural first; then immediately use the apostrophe.

Examples:
the Williamses’ car
the Birches’ house
the Sanchezes’ children

 

Pop Quiz

Choose the correct proper noun in each sentence below. The original proper noun is in parentheses.

1. I’m going to marry Ms. Straus’/Strauses’/Straus’s daughter. (Straus)

2. The Ortiz’/Ortizes’/Ortiz’s dog bit the mailman. (Ortiz)

3. My son can’t seem to get enough of Sandi Finches/Finches’/Finch’s fried chicken. (Finch)

4. The Ames/Amess/Ameses are coming home from vacation tomorrow. (Ames)

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. I’m going to marry Ms. Straus’s daughter. (OR Ms. Straus’ daughter)

2. The Ortizes’ dog bit the mailman.

3. My son can’t seem to get enough of Sandi Finch’s fried chicken.

4. The Ameses are coming home from vacation tomorrow.

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Posted on Tuesday, July 28, 2009, at 9:17 am