Hassle-free writing: mix of words and apostrophes

I am going to give you some suggestions to improve your writing and ensure that you have happy readers. I am not making many mistakes. This shows that the spell checker shouldn’t be your best friend. I didn’t misspell any words in this paragraph, but it’s terribly annoying, you know?

This problem often occurs with homonyms, words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. Examples:

  • two too
  • yours you are
  • its there
  • listen here

“Securing” is another problem. I rarely see this word used correctly including the first paragraph. In most cases, the correct word is “secure” and occasionally it is “secure.” When it comes to insurance policies or something similar, “insure” is correct.

The spell checker cannot tell you if you used the correct or incorrect word. Be careful and look it up in a dictionary if you are not sure what word to use. I admit that when I type fast, from time to time I use the wrong word because I “hear” the word in my head and my fingers write the wrong word.

While writing this article, I received my daily grammar email and it provided me with an added incentive to observe his words. Here is an example:

Meaning: The former basketball player remains in good physical shape.

Typescript: The former basketball player is still physically fat.

Embarrassing, huh? The last thing we need to do is inadvertently offend someone.

Editors can tell you that I have missed mistakes that a spell checker missed. When I listen to articles, I lose perspective by looking at them too long and making a poor inspection. What a shame, I know. If you have the luxury, try the associated edition. Trade your article with a coworker and edit others’ work.

Did you notice another problem in the first paragraph? Abuse of apostrophes! There should be no apostrophes in that paragraph. While on a cruise, I encountered frequent abuse of apostrophes in the ship’s bulletin. “It” should have been “his”, “1950” should have been “1950” and “50” should have been “50”.

Contractions should be the easiest apostrophe error to avoid, but it is prevalent in many resources, even reputable ones. When reviewing, break the contraction and sound everything. For example, read the first sentence of this article saying, “I am going to give you some suggestions to help you improve your writing.” You should know right away that the apostrophe doesn’t belong there.

Another catastrophe of the apostrophe is in “calendar years”. It takes little thinking, but it makes sense once you think about it. If you shorten a year to two digits, it must have an apostrophe in front of the first digit to indicate that it has been shortened. Remember that contractions are shortcuts, so using it in a year is shortening it.

On the other hand, when you include all the digits of a year, you are not shortening it. There is no apostrophe even if it is plural. A year is not a person, place or thing and cannot “own” anything. When you do it in the plural, just add an “s” at the end and nothing else.

An abused apostrophe is its use in “Frequently Asked Questions”. Unless someone has forgotten to tell me, FAQ is also not a person and cannot “own” a thing. Someone was right to ask me about the “s” in “FAQ” because it could be covered in “questions”. That is true, but it can also mean “question.” “Frequently Asked Questions” and “Frequently Asked Questions” are accepted. Many might argue that FAQ is an abbreviation for still ok. If the abbreviation is recognizable without the ‘then it should be fine to remove it. When it comes to letter grades like A, B, C, D and F; it helps to have the apostrophe.

Also, remember that possessives like “hers,” “hers,” “our,” and “theirs” already indicate ownership of something. Don’t make it a double property by adding an apostrophe. There are articles that use “hers”, “theirs”, “and so on. It’s ugly.

If you are on the lookout for these common mistakes, then you should have happy readers, especially those who are picky about these mistakes.

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August 31, 2021