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The Oxbridge Editing Blog 25th November 2010

Funny grammar mistakes: Apostrophes

25th November 2010

Of all the funny grammar mistakes that crop up in public places, one of the most frequent, and the funniest, is the misuse of the apostrophe. From cafes to restaurants, businesses to tourist attractions, there are a plethora of hilarious examples of apostrophes being put in the wrong place, or missed out altogether.

Take, for example, this professional sign-making company, proudly using one of their own products to promote their services.

Professional Sign making company incorrectly using an apostrophe

Avoid making the same mistake yourself by remembering that in English grammar, the apostrophe is used to indicate either ownership, or an abbreviation. For ownership, the apostrophe is placed after the name of the owner, and before the s:

eg. Philip’s dog was brown

If there are several owners, the apostrophe is placed after the ‘s’:

eg. The three dogs’ bowls were empty

For abbreviation, the apostrophe is placed where the missing letters have been removed:

eg. We didn’t know or It wasn’t easy

When an ‘s’ is added to the end of the word just to indicate that it is plural, there is no need to use an apostrophe. So in the case of ‘signs’, no apostrophe is necessary, as there is no ownership and no abbreviation.

This misconception that plurals require an apostrophe is responsible for a great number of funny sign mistakes, such as this café, which means to say it is open on Sunday…

apostrophes OXE blogpost compressed

…and this burger stand, which seems to be suggesting that it belongs to a man named ‘Pie’!

Pie's and burgers apostrophe post OXE compressed

Even worse is this official letter sent out by Pizza Hut – time to sack the proofreader?!

Pizza hut apostrophe mistake

And finally, this one really takes the top prize for apostrophe abuse…the irony!

apostrophe abuse OXE compressed image