Wednesday, October 3, 2007



by P.C. Hernández

[Published in Seasons for Writing, July 2001]

Why do people use an apostrophe when forming plurals? Apostrophes are used to form contractions and to show possessives. That’s it—no more, no less. So why the hang-up with plurals?

In the English language plurals are formed by adding s or es. No apostrophe is involved. The most irritating things I see as I roam around neighborhoods on my daily walk are the cutesy signs people put on their mailboxes: The Brown’s Home. Does only one Brown live there? Of course the sign should read: The Browns’ Home. Or sometimes a sign will say: The Brown’s live here. Naturally, the apostrophe should be dropped.

One of the worst signs that I’ve ever seen was on the door of the typing classroom across from mine: “The typewriter’s are fixed.” Say what? Literally that sign said, “The typewriter is are fixed.” Of course keyboarding is taught instead of typing these days but I have also seen signs that said, “The computer’s are here.”

Then there are advertisements in a newspaper that say: “TV’s for sale.” Literally that means that only one TV is for sale.

So, why is the apostrophe so popular and so misused?