Fate of the Apostrophe

“Somewhere in Kansas” asks:

What’s the deal with apostrophe’s?

The apostrophe has become a point of contention between those who believe that punctuation marks should have some meaning and dammit I’m going to make you use them correctly, and those who feel that we should acknowledge reality.

It looks like the latter camp is slowly winning out. My contact in the MLA “leaked” me this excerpt from the upcoming new edition of their Style Manual:

The apostrophe (‘) is a decorative mark, generally appearing somewhere near the end of words that end with “s”. It should not be assumed to have any meaning when used in this context. This mark is also used in contractions (e.g. “can’t spel”), where it stands in for letters the writer was too lazy to type. It is occasionally omitted in this context also, without affecting meaning. Apostrophe is also often used in names in science fiction, fantasy and horror stories, where it can also be simply ignored. Pronounce the name as best you can; nobody is listening and if they were, they wouldn’t care.

In fact, just use it anywhere you like. Civilization is ending anyway. Why limit yourself? Just stick any old symbol in the middle of a word. Stars, semicolons, slashes, carets — all perfectly legitimate as long as you don’t care about correctness! Why not just pee on the floor? Why not get yourself a gun? Kill me now!

See also: single quote.

My source tells me the author of this entry has left the MLA and is residing someplace restful. The association is considering whether to change anything in the second paragraph.


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