Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Apostrophe Is Your Friend - But Don't Overdo It

The apostrophe (') is often over-used.  Some folks erroneously add an apostrophe before the "s" when making a word plural.  Additionally, people will sometimes use an apostrophe with a possessive pronoun such as "its" or "theirs."

Or, sometimes people will just dispense with the apostrophe altogether, even where it's required, possibly due to uncertainty as to usage.

Keeping in mind just two very basic rules will help dissolve the confusion:

1. An apostrophe is used in contractions, in place of the missing letter or letters.
Examples: Don't (do not); you're (you are); could've (could have); it's (it is or it has); we'll (we will)

2. An apostrophe is used along with an "s" to indicate possession, except in the case of possessive pronouns like his, hers, its, ours, yours, theirs, and whose.
Examples: Bonnie's hairbrush; Florida's weather; the dog's fur

When indicating possession for more than one person or entity, make the people or entities plural before adding the apostrophe.  (A list of rules governing the use of the apostrophe can be found on this excellent site.)
Examples: "The cars' roofs were all damaged by hail." "We are going to paint the twins' bedroom."

No apostrophe is needed to pluralize words.  Merely add an "s" (or "es" or "ies") at the end, as appropriate.
Examples: Photos; toys; dresses; anniversaries

The same goes for numbers.  Just add an "s" without an apostrophe.
Examples: his 50s; the 1960s

Incorrect: "He took many photo's at the wedding." "They all had lot's of fun."  "We have celebrated many anniversary's together."
Correct: "He took many photos at the wedding." "They all had lots of fun."  "We have celebrated many anniversaries together."

Incorrect: "I dont want to go to the store." "He does'nt want to go to the store either."
Correct: "I don't want to go to the store." "He doesn't want to go to the store either."

Incorrect: "Marthas house has just been painted."  "All of the neighbors houses were painted, too."
Correct: "Martha's house has just been painted."  "All of the neighbors' houses were painted, too."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ware, Wear, Were or Where?

Ware, wear, and where are soundalike words that are sometimes confused with one another in written form.  The word "where" is often misspelled as "were," which is another proper word (and another case in which spellcheck won't flag it).

Ware is a somewhat archaic form of "aware," as in "Be ware" or the derivative "beware."  These days, the word "ware" is seldom used in this fashion except in literature.  It can also refer to a product or commodity that is purchased.  ("He is selling his wares door-to-door.")

To "wear" means to "be clothed in" or to have or carry on the body, among other definitions.  You can wear a coat, or you can wear a smile on your face.

"Were" is the past tense of "are."  ("Were you at the party last night?")  ("They were at the beach yesterday.")

"Where" means "what place."  ("Where would you like to go today?")  ("Where did I put my keys?")

Incorrect: "Were did they go?"
Correct: "Where did they go?"
Incorrect: "I want to ware my new clothes today."
Correct: "I want to wear my new clothes today."