It’s a grammar epidemic.
Normally, on this blog, we talk about ways to enhance your digital marketing and bring your business to the next level as an entrepreneur or manager — we also discuss ways to work from home and beat the daily hustle/grind as a freelancer — but, today, I thought it was important to bring you guys a Sesame Street type of message about the catastrophe that is sweeping our nation. The apostrophe catastrophe.
It is not okay for your business to misuse apostrophes, ever. For any reason.
Awhile back I started noticing that there are a ton of small, “Mom and Pop” types of businesses in my community that misuse the apostrophe. For example, there’s a daiquiri shop (a daiquiri is a type of frozen alcohol concoction that you can get through a drive-thru in New Orleans, where I’m from) around the corner from my home. The name of the shop is “Bayou Daiquiri’s.” Although this bar is affordable, serves tasty beverages, is literally a half a mile from my home, is convenient, and has a DRIVE-THRU — my boyfriend and I refuse to go there, purely out of principle. Because they should know that a daiquiri cannot possess anything, and that they shouldn’t have spent so much money on such an absurd neon sign. What’s worse, the sign recently broke, they took it down, made another one exactly like it, and put it back up. But, it gets worse than that.
If Office Max Can’t Use the English Language Correctly, Who Can?
I print a lot of copies at Office Max / Office Depot. You know, the national chain that is known for advertising their services for helping offices and professionals excel. Because I’m a young professional, I visit often and buy many, many copies, as many young entrepreneurs do. This particular branch has a huge sign in the store advertising the deals they have on “Monday’s, Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, and Thursday’s.” YOU GUYS. A day cannot possess anything! Not before, not now, not later, not under any circumstances. Unless you are referring to the property of late actress Tuesday Weld, or Wednesday Addams, or someone similarly named — there is no reason you would ever need to use the conjunction “Tuesday’s.” (I guess we can allow passes for stores like Tuesday Morning (Tuesday’s coupons) but not for T.G.I. Fridays, which doesn’t make sense either and has always bothered me for that name, but that’s for another post.)
Another example: I do PR for a large event that spends several thousands of dollars on signage displaying their food menus, and after I couldn’t bite my tongue anymore I had to finally tell them that they had “ENTREE’S and APPETIZER’S” on their menu. Again, food can’t possess stuff, it can only be possessed. These are lovely, smart, wonderful people who made some critical mistakes (or had a sign company make critical mistakes), and yet this happened because so many people are uneducated about the proper use of the apostrophe. Do we no longer teach this in school? Do people just not remember it? I don’t understand why this is suddenly a huge crisis.
And here’s the thing about this. I blame the person who didn’t know the correct use of grammar, but I also doubly blame that person for not looking something up that was going to print. Say it forget it, write it regret it. It is a record for all time and to anyone who sees it, photographs it, or prints it and takes it home. Additionally, I find it super unprofessional that no one else noticed. Are there no managers that proofread employees work? Can I trust that they’ll catch in error in one of my documents before printing 5000 copies? And what about the sign guys? Is it not their responsibility to double check spelling and grammar on a sign that can cost several thousand dollars?
Even super large conglomerates are making these types of simple, elementary level, grammatical mistakes.
This morning, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a live broadcast of the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning Show, of which I have been a fan for many, many years. The broadcast event took place in front of a studio audience at the brand new Higgins Hotel, which is a property owned by the National World War II Museum, and managed by Hilton. It’s a gorgeous, 1940s themed hotel adjacent to the National D-Day museum (the number 2 rated museum in our nation) and it opened this week. It cost $33 million dollars to build. The staff is super professional, well dressed, kind, and there is not a flaw that I can find with the property. Except that they handed me a coupon that said something like the following:
“We are so happy you’ve chosen to visit the Higgins Hotel in New Orleans historic district.”
So, okay, as much as everyone these days loves to add apostrophes as much as they like to add the lowercase letter i in front of different types of electronics, these people actually forgot an apostrophe. It should either have read “New Orleans’ historic district” OR “in THE New Orleans historic district.”
Do you guys follow that?
But, it gets worse. On the back, it indicated that “Higgin’s” was known for creating a famous Higgins boat.
A couple of things. 1. His name was Higgins. Not Higgin. Higgin’s would never, ever be appropriate under any circumstance. 2. Even if they correctly put Higgins’ — it wouldn’t have been followed with an adverb, adjective, or verb. Literally, only a noun can follow, the thing that is being shown ownership over. 3. This place is literally CALLED “The Higgins Hotel” so they should know better, it’s not a phrase they use once in a blue moon, it is their business title. 4. When I pointed out the mistake, along with my business card, and an offer to fix the document for free, they seemed less than pleased and I’m pretty sure that the sales manager may have snarled at me.
I normally wouldn’t put a business like this on blast, without bringing it to their attention first, but I’ve done that– and it wasn’t received extremely well, and that’s a risk I had to take. I feel like at the end of the day, creative decisions should only be second-guessed or discussed by someone trusted and respected (or asked), but spelling and grammar aren’t opinion, they are fact, and true or false matters should be able to be brought up by anyone. But I digress, again.
When you use improper grammar, you make your business and everyone that works for or with you look bad. It shows that you are impatient, uneducated, ignorant, and unlikely to accept criticism, or any combination of the above.
And before you tell me that I should be more understanding, that people make mistakes, I absolutely agree with you. But, people wouldn’t make mistakes if they proofread documents or asked for help from agencies like mine. And definitely, it is absolutely necessary to proofread documents that you are going to print. If you find the error after you print the item, DO NOT HAND IT OUT.
Everyone makes mistakes. I made a HUGE mistake last year. I ordered 1000 business cards from Vistaprint, and I was in such a hurry to submit my order at 11:59pm to take advantage of a coupon code that expired at midnight that I accidentally had 1000 cards printed that listed “copywriting” twice under services and didn’t list “copyediting” at all. I could have still handed them out. Everything else looked good, the colors were beautiful, they were glossy, not to mention that they took six weeks to come in, and I am the most impatient person on the planet. People would have understood, most would probably not have even noticed because they don’t read everything with a fine toothed comb like I do, but you know what? I’m in the business of being professional, and my business is copywriting and editing, as well as branding, which means that I only allow my customers to put their best foot forward 100% of the time and I have to demand the same high standards for myself, and for my own business.
The business owners who care the most about details, are the ones who are most successful.
This doesn’t mean you have to micromanage, only that you have to have a system in place so that errors are caught, and if you don’t– your business will suffer. Will I avoid the gorgeous, beautiful Higgins Hotel just because of two typos on a postcard? No. But you’d better believe I’d think twice about hiring that sales team to put on my large event, conference, or wedding. Details missed are details missed, regardless of what they are– and if it’s on your marketing materials, the thing you’ve specifically prepared to show or give your customer– well then I don’t even want to think about what you may miss in-house.
So here’s what I can do for you as a freelance writer, digital branding consultant, and digital marketing expert:
I can teach you the proper rules of grammar, I can proofread the work you’ve paid me to proofread, and I can advise you accordingly. Everything else is up to you.
Here are some simple apostrophe governing rules that I see people getting wrong all the time that you should save or try to remember:
How do I use apostrophes correctly?
- Apostrophes indicate possessive – For example, if Billy owns a scooter, it’s okay to say Billy’s scooter. You don’t say Billys’ scooter, unless his name is Billys. It’s name + apostrophe + thing. You also don’t remove letters of the name because you’re using an apostrophe. Just think of it this way– when you own a thing, you want to put a lock and chain on it. Your name + chain (apostrophe) + lock (s) + thing. You are currently reading Rebecca’s blog. Not becca’s blog, or Rebecc’s blog, I don’t want anyone else to think it belongs to anyone else but me. My name + apostrophe + s equals the thing that is mine.
- Apostrophes can also indicate possessive (a possession) of multiple people. POSSESSIVE, not PLURAL. Repeat that multiple times. — Let’s say Billy owns a car but it’s also his mom and dad’s car. You could say Billy, Mark, and Lisa’s car– OR you could say the Smith Family’s car (because it belongs to the Smith Family) or the Smiths’ car (because it belongs to the Smiths, collectively. One Smith, two Smiths, three Smiths.) You wouldn’t say Smith’s car, unless they had someone in the family named Smith Smith. Just like you wouldn’t say Apple’s anything, unless you were talking about the computer company’s holdings or Gwyneth Paltrow’s kid’s toys.
To recap, multiple people will never require an apostrophe, ever, ever, ever, unless they own something and you’re talking about that item.
3. Apostrophes can indicate a letter (or two) missing in a contraction — We all use the word “that’s” — short for “that is“. The apostrophe is filling in for the i. Or “it’s” used for it is, he’s, she’s, etc. It’s important to note that these are shortened forms of he is and she is and not their possessions, because if you think about it, you wouldn’t say “He’s bicycle,” you would use the word his. I hear the word y’all often being from South Louisiana, and it’s often spelled ya’ll — but if you consider what the contraction stands for, it’s “you all” — the letter(s) missing are the o and u. y ‘ all. Y’all. Not Ya’ll. I cannot emphasize this enough If you remember what letter is missing, or what letter you’re trying to replace, the rest should be easy.
4. If you aren’t sure — look it up. Ask Alexa, ask Google, ask an assistant, your mom, your 4th grade daughter, whoever you need to ask, just don’t use something you aren’t sure about in print. Definitely not to represent your business. And please don’t just depend on technology to auto-correct and catch your mistakes. Computers can’t reason, and it takes 3 seconds to ask yourself if it’s possessive, a missing letter, or none of the above.
5. Or, hire someone like Quatrefoil— I’m happy to proofread your pieces, starting at just $5, and if it keeps one person from thinking you’re uneducated, ignorant, in a hurry, careless, or reckless, I feel like it would be $5 extremely well spent. We’re (We are) available starting immediately.
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