The apostrophe (‘) has three legitimate uses:
- to indicate possession (David’s blogs)
- to indicate omission (don’t = do not)
- to form the plural of numerals (1960’s, although hardly anyone writes it like that any more)
Anything else is abuse. People are often confused between “its” and “it’s,” and perhaps legitimately so. “Its” is one of three third person singular possessive pronouns: his, hers, its. Being a pronoun, it already indicates possession and does not have an apostrophe. “It’s,” on the other hand, indicates omission. It’s short for “it is.”
Some people, for whatever reason, stick apostrophes before almost any final “s” whether it makes sense or not. Years ago, I noticed a grocery store that apparently had an overstock on eggs. A hand printed sign promised “egg’s” at a ridiculously low price “while supply last’s.”
I thought it was very funny, at least until I recognized that it was only one example of an epidemic of misused apostrophes–most often inserted where they don’t belong, but occasionally missing or misplaced. Professional sign makers are among the chief offenders.
Flickr has an entire photography group called Atrocious Apostrophe’s, which has more than 3000 examples of apostrophe misuse, taken mostly from the work of professionally-made signs. Don’t try this at home! Punctuation disaster ahead!
- [Painted on the door of a flower shop] Flowers for every occasion–weddings / birthdays / new arrivals / anniversary’s / corporate events . . .
- [Newspaper ad for Isuzu] Corsa’s Meriva’s Astra’s Tigra’s Vectra’s Signum’s Zafira’s Convertibles’s [remarkably consistent until the last entry!]
- [Yellow pages ad] Santa’s and Elves
- [Not professionally painted, but posted in a school] Homework Club / There will be a homework club on Thursday’s after school between 3:00 and 3:45pm. . .
- [Headers on a chart comparing European and British shoe sizes] Adults’ Childrens’
- [At a park] Benches are not to be move from its position. Also no feet’s should be on the benches.
- [Brand name on a bag of mulch] Natures Best [Hey, so many others put apostrophes where they don’t belong that maybe there weren’t any left for when this batch of bags needed them.]
- [In a book store] See the world through other’s eyes [Apparently only one other. It should be others’ for the plural]
- [Behind a strip mall] Plaza delivery’s only
- [Sign at a day nursery] Childrens Learning Centre
- [At a candy store] Cre’me Eggs [!!]
- [At a news stand] New’s Mart #2
(I have looked all over, but still never seen any apostrophe abuse to beat “while supply last’s.”)Google+