Seth Godin poses the question “Am I the only one distracted by apostrophes and weird quoting?”
When I get a manuscript or see a sign that misuses its and it’s and quotes, I immediately assume that the person who created it is stupid.
I understand that this is a mistake on my part. They’re not necessarily totally stupid, they’re just stupid about apostrophes.
No, it’s not just you Seth. We are judging them.
Longtime readers of this site may be aware that this is a particular bugbear of mine, and one that I have ranted about previously in these pages – with specific reference to marketing and other professional communications – and devised a classification system or malapostrophication offences, to boot.
1. Permissible Error
This usually means that the sign is handwritten, chalked or otherwise home-produced, and is generally an indication that the writer was in a hurry, or without English as a mother tongue, or both, and can therefore be permitted to make a small, apostrophe-sized slip once in a while. Classic greengrocer’s apostrophe territory.
2. Should Know Better
These are usually printed items which are created for a one-off, limited audience purpose. It tends to be that this usage is seen in charity shops, local church/school/community organisation newsletters and on the stand-up A-frame boards for independent delicatessens and sandwich shops. Most of these will have either been created by the proprietor or, occasionally, created by a signwriter acting under direct
comissioncommission (oops!) from the owner. 99% of the time, it’s a plural error.
3. Utterly unforgivable
These are the real clangers. High distribution (vast print run – adverts, merchandise and the like), very visible channels (like billboards and television), otherwise high production values (design, or materials used) and – most importantly of all – very likely to have passed (in copy, design and approval stages) through the hands of several people, at least one of whom should have spotted the mistake. This is a quality issue, and is something that creative or marketing agencies (especially) are particularly bad at managing.
That post from March last year contains a number of photographic examples, too.
As an additional example, here’s a photo of our local chippy, captured for posterity by one of my neighbours:
All the right bits, just not necessarily in the right place.
It’s been like that for at least the six years I’ve lived here, and I’ve come to think of it as one would a slightly batty aunt – well meaning, a little scatty, beyond redemption but utterly forgiveable because she knows how to make a mean saveloy & chips.