Grammar

Why Do People Insist On Using Apostrophes to Make Things Plural?

Apostrophes definitely have their place in grammar, but in almost no case at all is turning something from singular to plural among them.

A discount department store sent an email the other day about a big furniture sale that misused an apostrophe in an all-too-common grammar error.

The subject line read, “Lowest prices of the season on sofa’s and sections.”

My Grammarly spell-checker immediately lit up a red line under “sofa’s” as I typed it.

The plural of sofa is sofas. No apostrophe.

I saw a news story about a 90-something-year-old Meals on Wheels volunteer with another volunteer saying she sees most “driver’s” once or twice a week, but sees the nonagenarian every day.

The plural of driver is drivers. No apostrophe.

An apostrophe has two primary functions, and neither involves making something plural. (There is one case in which apostrophes can legitimately be used to do so, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

An apostrophe forms a contraction.

An apostrophe indicates missing letters in contractions.

Don’t is the contraction for “do not.” The apostrophe indicates the words have been combined into one and the O in not has been removed.
We’ve is the contraction for “we have.” The apostrophe indicates the words have been combined into one and the HA of have are missing.
Y’all, a primarily Southern word, is a contraction for “you all.” The apostrophe indicates the OU in you are missing and the words have been combined.

An apostrophe indicates possession.

An apostrophe can be used to show posession of something.

Ben’s book uses the apostrophe to indicate the book belongs to Ben.
The boys’ locker room uses the apostrophe to indicate the locker room “belongs” or is intended for boys.
The Andersons’ home uses the apostrophe to indicate the home belongs to the Anderson family. (If there’s more than one Anderson living there, the name is first made plural, then the apostrophe is added after the S.)

There’s one proper case to use an apostrophe to make something plural.

Yes, just one.

The earlier example about “sofa’s” being on sale is not it.

The time to make something plural with an apostrophe is when you’re dealing with lowercase letters that might otherwise cause confusion.

The phrase, “Mind your p’s and q’s” is an acceptable use of an apostrophe to make the letters P and Q plural.
But traditional rules indicate that’s the only reason you’d ever use an apostrophe for that purpose. Given how rare you’d ever need to show plurality of single lowercase letters, you can see why grammar enthusiasts get aggravated when they see apostrophes being misused constantly in an attempt to make something plural.

So don’t do it!

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Patrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.