Winter 2003

More and more often, apostrophes are being used incorrectly to form the plurals of words, abbreviations, and acronyms.

Word Watch:
Apostrophe Catastrophe

They're sprouting up everywhere—from billboards and brochure copy to restaurant menus and TV weather maps. The rapscallions? Errant apostrophes.

An apostrophe is a punctuation mark used to indicate the possessive case ("the executive's salary"), contractions ("it's," "won't"), the omission of letters or figures ("a ne'er-do-well," "the roaring '20s"), or the plurals of single letters ("mind your p's and q's," "she earned straight A's").

But more and more often, apostrophes are being used incorrectly to form the plurals of words, and particularly the plurals of abbreviations and acronyms such as "CEOs" and "GIs."

So, let's review: Amazon.com does not sells DVD's; it sells DVDs—no apostrophe. The temperature is not in the 80's; it's in the 80s—no apostrophe. And people do not withdraw cash from ATM's; they withdraw cash from ATMs—no apostrophe.


Sources: Arianna Huffington, "America's apostrophe catastrophe," Salon.com, December 17, 2002.
Richard Lederer and Richard Dowis, Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay, St. Martin's Griffin, 1999, p. 156.



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