Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Whither the Apostrophe.

I'm sitting here surrounded by an unexpectedly difficult set of student essays.

I mean, I asked for them. I told my tiny class of summer students (mostly high schoolers and returning adults) to please write me an excellent essay about some readings we'd done.

But what about apostrophes? I mean, I didn't SPECIFY that they should use them when they're appropriate. In fact, I never talked about them at ALL! How are they supposed to know if I don't TELL them?

Essay after essay with "Dantes poem" instead of "Dante's poem." Countless references in one essay to the "narrators mania," and it's only the ONE guy.

Did I miss the apostrophe meeting? Did it go away the same way it seems semi-colons did. (Don't get me started on how commas are about the only punctuation mark students will willingly use.)

Whither the apostrophe? Withered?

15 comments:

  1. Silly Calico! Apostrophes are used for possession now!

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  2. I usually get the opposite -- apostrophes, apostrophes everywhere, usually for plurals. I have really dumb student's who do not have brain's. They also don't no witch word too yous win they right.

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  3. This one drives me berserk. What's so tea-partying hard about apostrophes?! 1) Do you need one? (yes/no) 2) If yes, then before or after?! This may be the one that sends me to the clock tower at last. Move over, Streli!

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  4. Im with Prissy on thi's one. I get lot's of apostrophe's in students essay's, but their yoozhualli for plural's. Unless their knot.

    But adults do this too. Go walking through a neighborhood of summer cabins in the midwest and look at the nifty home-made signs they use to tell everyone who lives (sorry, "live's") there. Sign after laquered wooden sign reads, "Baker's," "Malone's," "Pierce's" etc.

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  5. Beware the killer panda and his commas! Yes, the possession in odd places that make strange possessives not seen in Standard English, the plural versus possessive war that plural seems to be winning, and the absence of any punctuation other than the period and the comma are all part of the devolution. Capitals will be the next to go at this rate.

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  6. Oh, no, no, no. The Capital Letter is not going anywhere. I get more Student Essays with random noun capitalization... and I always say the same Thing: we don't speak High German here.

    But I agree that commas are the only punctuation students seem to know about, when they use any punctuation at all. A comma splice here, a capital letter there, here a misnomer, there a misnomer, everywhere a misnomer.

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  7. But adults do this too. Go walking through a neighborhood of summer cabins in the midwest and look at the nifty home-made signs they use to tell everyone who lives (sorry, "live's") there. Sign after laquered wooden sign reads, "Baker's," "Malone's," "Pierce's" etc.

    I once had a debate in an grad-level English class over this one.

    While many people do use it wrong if you asked them to explain it, using an apostrophe is not exactly wrong sans explanation. After all, the Baker family owns the home (it's the Baker's), the Malone family own their home (it's the Malone's), etc.

    So, this phenomenon is only wrong if you ask the family and they explain it wrong. Did you? ;-)

    P.S. This is what happens when kids who should have failed 6th grade Grammar class get passed along without a single correction on their essays throughout junior high and high school.

    Anyone else have college students go BALLISTIC when you correct them? They simply cannot fathom that by age 18 they should know how to use apostrophes, periods, commas, rules of capitalization and so on. Makes proofreading practice impossible when soooo many of them haven't a clue.

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  8. Things that make me want to stab my eyes out:

    it's = contraction, not possessive
    you're = contraction, not possessive
    their/they're/there = different words with different grammatical functions

    But you can't tell them this anymore because they don't know what a contraction or a possessive is.

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  9. I've long thought professors should get this poster and hang it at the front of the room. I've copied it and e-mailed it to people that need it.

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling

    Also: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apostrophe

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  10. dont u no that capitalization is mainly for Emphasis, if u want too emphasize a Word u Capitalize it,,,,,,,, im also hear too tell u that apostrophe's alway's go be4 an s accept when it is a contraction than you dont use them,,,,,,, also punctuation mark's have Know use accept for string's of coma's. And period's for fragment sentence's. i no your glad to here this. makes u Happy. im happy about all of this to!!!!!!!!! ;),(note the propper use of semicolon's),!

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  11. I see (or don't see) more extra apostrophes than missing ones, but there's no question that correct usage is going the way of the dodo (or is that dodo's?)

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  12. Cassandra, if there are two, then it's dodo. If it's just one, the animal is called a doesdoes.

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  13. Anyone else have college students go BALLISTIC when you correct them?

    Grrr. Oh, yeah. It's not English class; how DARE I take off points for grammar or spelling? When I get this on student evaluations, my dean just laughs because he used to teach English.

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  14. Maybe it's because I went to a parochial school from 2nd through 6th grade, but we were always counted off for spelling and grammar no matter what we were writing, whether it was Science, Geography, History, Reading or especially English. Sorry, now it's "Language Arts."

    I guess the slowflakes don't realize they'll lose more than points in a real job. They might lose the opportunity to be hired.

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