A lesson in apostrophe use to help you look more professional

Today marks the debut of a new type of blog post. I’ll take an error, or maybe a few related errors, that I see in a blog post or article and examine it here.

I won’t post the URL of where the error came from. However, I will describe the topic of the blog and whether it is monetized, or whether the author offers professional services. My goal isn’t to call specific people out and point to them as if they’re idiots. You’re not an idiot, but you may need to pay more attention to your errors so you don’t look like an idiot.

I’m not going to stop at just noting the error. I’m going to explain why it’s an error, which means we’ll get into some nitty-gritty spelling, grammar or punctuation rules. And I’m going to give corrections and suggestions on how to make it better.

Why Am I Doing This?

If you’re new to blogging, haven’t done much writing for a broad audience, or haven’t done any writing in a long time, you may be committing errors that make you look less than professional without even realizing it.

If you’re sitting there smugly thinking, “I don’t have any errors in my writing!” or “People must not notice my errors because they don’t say anything,” I’m afraid I have to correct you.

I notice. If the errors are bad enough, I get distracted by your errors so much that they interfere with your message. I back away from your post without commenting.

Enough bloggers are committing writing errors that I feel confident I can make a regular feature out of these posts.

If I notice your errors, other people do, too. And we wonder: If you’re careless enough to leave errors in your blog posts, which I can read for free, why should I pay money to buy a product from you? If I pay money, the ebook or video you’re selling had better be near-perfect, or I might not be a repeat customer.

My goal is to educate you on the most common errors and how you can correct them. My goal is also to help you pay more attention to your own posts and wonder what errors you’re making. And more importantly, what can you do to edit your posts better, fix your errors, and present your blog more professionally?

My goal is to leave you with a take-away lesson that you can apply to your own writing. If you elevate your blog to a more professional level, with flawless content, you’ll be seen as more credible. People are more likely to buy from someone who is credible.

Today’s Error: Look At Your Apostrophe Use

Apostrophe-use

The rules for using apostrophes are simple. Yet so many writers misuse them. Following this simple rule will make your writing more professional.

Let’s study a simple error for this first analysis post.

This one came from the monetized blog of a marketing communications website. Since the author is trying to make money, I assume he also wants to project a professional image.

The sentence: At Christmas, we bought one of our daughter’s boots from Amazon.

The error: This is a confusing sentence because of the apostrophe in daughter’s, making the word possessive. As written, it says we bought our daughter one boot, of which she is now the proud owner. I wonder if her other foot was left bare, or if the other boot was bought elsewhere. Did the author really buy his daughter only one boot, as the sentence implies? Or does he have more than one daughter, one of whom he bought boots for?

The fix: Because boots are typically sold in pairs, at Amazon or at your local shoe store, I’m going to assume that this author made an apostrophe mistake. It’s way too common for writers to put apostrophes where they don’t belong in plural words. In this case, the apostrophe means ownership. But the second question I asked above is probably the correct one: The author has more than one daughter, and he bought a pair of boots for one of them as a Christmas gift. In that case, the word should be plural with no apostrophe.

The correct sentence: At Christmas, we bought one of our daughters boots from Amazon.

The lesson: Apostrophes are used to show possession or a contraction. They are not used to make words plural.

You see, one little apostrophe can make all the difference in making this author look a little more professional in his writing.

Readers, what do you think of this new feature? Do you find yourself misusing apostrophes? Or do you notice when other writers do? Let us know in the comments!

Comments

A lesson in apostrophe use to help you look more professional — 18 Comments

  1. I had to laugh, I thought he had bought his daughter one boot. Yes, that’s silly, but it’s what I thought. I know for a fact that I am guilty of this and worst on my own blog. It is the price we pay for being rushed, but when you look at the impression it leaves behind, makes you realize it would be better to take our time. Good for you for posting on it.

  2. Yes! I completely agree that errors in writing distract from the message. My mom is the Queen of grammar, punctuation and spelling. If I were to say something in the wrong way or use the wrong pronoun, she would correct me immediately! And I’m so thankful for that influence growing up. I pride myself on (hopefully!) not writing poorly and making sure things are right before they get posted. I very much hope you will continue to write about grammar, punctuation and spelling.

    • I give my parents a lot of credit for being an early influence on my writing as well! Back in high school, they were my first editors because they looked over every paper or essay before I turned it in. And they nitpicked. But it made me a better writer because I wanted to find as many mistakes as I could before they did! Thanks for your comment, Pamela!

  3. Hi Jennifer,
    I like the grammatical addition to your website. We can all use reminders that help us to improve our skills. I know of one person who is a self-proclaimed writing expert and markets herself as such. Her free E-book is filled with errors. I gave up looking at it after the first five pages.

    As a writer, I notice grammatical errors and do my best to keep my writing error-free.

    • Thanks, William! I’ll bet you’ll never buy a product from that “writing expert,” will you? Maybe she needs an editing expert! I try my best, too, and that’s all we can do. I probably have a few errors creep through, no matter how hard I try. I cringe when I go back and find one in one of my old posts. And I go back into the WordPress editor and fix it.

  4. I agree with you so much. Good English makes such a lot of difference when reading any blog – whether it is a business related or just a lifestyle fun blog.

  5. I too find these errors annoying. There certainly are many people who don’t know the rules but if they realize that they don’t, they really should have someone proof their work for them before staining the world with it. End of rant.

  6. Hi Jennifer – Thanks. I will be following this series closely because I’m always wondering about the correct use of grammar. I do know what you mean about errors distracting you. I’m that way with spelling mistakes – if I find them in a book I’m reading, they drive me crazy.
    Lenie

  7. Hi Jennifer; Yes, I think you will be able to sustain this series long term. I also think you did very well to include some humor in a post that could have been very dry. Usually when people point out mistakes on my site they have to do with spelling errors. Although, more than a few people have suggested I should simplify my sentence structure to make my posts easier to read. I have been lucky in that my friend Lorraine Reguly will often review my posts and let me know about technical errors. Sometimes she wil even fix them for me. :) One mistake I was making because it had been so long since I left school was putting two spaces after a period. Looking forward to future lessons. Take care, Max

    • I’m glad you have Lorraine to help you, Max. My husband still puts two spaces after a period. It drives me nuts, and I can’t get him to stop!

  8. The apostrophe can be a grammatically troublesome area and I have seen them pop up in some pretty peculiar places. There are plenty of posts you can write about grammatical irregularities and I hope you do. Thanks in advance.

    • I don’t understand why the apostrophe gives people so much trouble, but it does. Next time, I think I’ll take on its/it’s, which is a special kind of apostrophe error. And it makes me twitch and shake my head at the writer every time.

  9. I am a new author, and I need blogs like these to help me along the way. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to more. Hopefully my writing will improve because of your help.

  10. Grammatical errors concern me if they genuinely obscure what the author is trying to say, or if they conflict with an otherwise pompous tone of assumed authority and alleged professionalism. As to apostrophes, my keyboard periodically gets a glitch where it will not generate one at all so for commenting purposes I just leave them out and let the grammar grinches think what they may.

  11. I find errors in bestselling novels all the time. I agree that if they are ubiquitous it can be distracting and make me stop reading! I’ve had literary agents tell me that they will stop reading if they see 3 or more grammatical errors on the first page. But I think people often overlook them because they don’t recognize them. That doesn’t lessen their importance, but I think it gives some perspective to the problem.

    • I’ve seen errors in books, too, and I wonder if they even went past an editor’s eyes. Or if the writer even bothered to use spell check. Cheap Kindle books can be especially bad.

  12. I have a question for you: do you believe the reader who doesn’t blog and might not have such a command of grammar, would find the errors distracting? I get that errors can certainly miscommunicate. And the credibility factor. I’m cringing because I know I DO make errors. I suppose I will need to find a community of proofreaders as Jeri WB suggested months ago. Sigh.

    Valuable new feature.

    • Great question, Patricia. Reader who don’t have good command of grammar may not recognize errors, and there will always be a vein of people who really don’t care. Sad, but true. But that doesn’t mean bloggers should use that as an excuse to not pay attention to their errors. There are plenty of readers who do recognize errors, and I don’t want to look like an idiot in front of them.