What is the Most Maddening Writing Error? Misused Apostrophes

by • April 07, 2014

Grammarly’s cut-throat competition to determine the most “maddening” writing error concluded on April 6, 2014 with MISUSED APOSTROPHES crowned as the undisputed Grammar Madness bracket champion.

Tens of thousands of grammarians voted in 16 separate match-ups representing the most annoying errors in English writing.

According to one voter in the final match-up between YOUR/YOU’RE and MISUSED APOSTROPHES: “[I]t seems like there is a whole new wave of people who believe that you NEED an apostrophe and an ‘s’ to make a word plural.”

There’s no doubt that misused apostrophes are maddening to word enthusiasts across the globe. Institutions that have taken a stand on apostrophes continue to stoke the fire:

  • The Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names doesn’t like apostrophes, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • The Cambridge City Council proposed to abolish the use of apostrophes on street signs (The Telegraph).
  • The Internet doesn’t include apostrophes as part of Web addresses (for example: McDonald’s is mcdonalds.com).

Generally, an apostrophe is used to indicate possession – not plural – and to mark missing letters in contractions (for example: you are = you’re).

The Oatmeal has an amazing visual primer on how to use an apostrophe.

When in doubt, conventional wisdom tells us not to use an apostrophe in our writing. This may save us from any one of the following embarrassing – and very public – writing mistakes:

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What’s the worst misuse of an apostrophe that you’ve seen in your daily life? We’ll post the best examples on our Facebook page for the consideration of more than one million actively engaged grammarians!