This week’s edition of the Monday quote is more of an excerpt from Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, by Benjamin Dreyer. Copy chief of Random House, Dreyer is an authority on all things style. His manual is charming, entertaining, and worthy of many highlights. It reads like well-done fiction.
This excerpt on apostrophes—which tend to be misused—is one of my favorites:
Step back, I’m about to hit the CAPS LOCK key.
DO NOT EVER ATTEMPT TO USE AN APOSTROPHE TO PLURALIZE A WORD.
“NOT EVER” AS IN “NEVER.”
You may reapproach.
Directing their disapproval toward miswritten produce signs advertising “banana’s” and “potato’s” (or “potatoe’s” or even “potato’es”), the Brits have dubbed such incorrectly wielded squiggles “greengrocer’s apostrophes.” In America, where we don’t have greengrocers, we should, I’d say, call them something else. The term I first taught was “idiot apostrophe,” but that’s not really nice, is it.
Let’s simply call them errant apostrophes. Which is kind of classy, don’t you think?