Mookie wrote a plural with an apostrophe-s yesterday as she was working on her homework. She can go ahead and become a grocer, but if she does, she’s going to be one who knows how to write plural nouns, damn it, so I told her that you don’t use an apostrophe there. I wasn’t sure if she was ready to hear more, but I thought I’d make a try at it, so I explained that there are only two times you use apostrophes: to show that something belongs to someone (Mookie’s room) or to be in place of missing letters as a kind of shortcut (don’t). Here, Mookie cut in to say, “Or, like, lunes, martes, miercoles . . . ”

Lune’s, marte’s, miercole’s? I thought with a shudder. “No, honey, you don’t need it there. Lunes is just l-u-n-e-s. No apostrophe.”

“No, but after the word. Lunes . . . martes . . . ”

Aha! “Oh, you mean when it’s down here,” I said, pointing to where a comma goes. She nodded.

“That’s called a comma,” I said, and, realizing they look exactly the same, conceded, “When it’s up here it’s called an apostrophe, and when it’s down here it’s called a comma.”

She gave me the world-weary look that says, “What idiot grownup thought that was a good idea?” At least I could tell her she was right about the use of a comma. One of them. We won’t tell her about the other 20 comma rules just yet.


One thought on “Punctuation

  1. It might be time for this:
    Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!

    Also, imagine the look she’s going to give you over its and it’s, where the possive rule goes out the window.

    Its and it’s are consistent, even though they’re confusing. Its is like any other possessive pronoun–no apostrophe: hers, his, theirs. I understand why people get it mixed up, though, because when they’re trying to write “its problem is it eats oil,” they think, “Possessive! I know what to do here! Use an apostrophe!” and also, it’s is such a common word. No other possessive pronoun has an almost-twin that does use an apostrophe.–MM

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