> Mrs. O'Neill's Blog: I think the apostrophe is beginning to mutate

Friday, November 17, 2006

I think the apostrophe is beginning to mutate

Don't want to sound too pedantic, but what's happening to the apostrophe these days? I find myself giving constant speeches to kids about it. I also find myself talking more and more about it, as if it were some sort of animal facing extinction.

I admit I find its presence in my surname a bit spooky at times. I have almost given up using it online because it almost always gets rejected. It causes all sorts of strange stuff to happen.

Should it be removed? Is there a point in punctuation?

This week I had an odd apostrophe moment:

I was marking the jotters of one class. I couldn't help notice the dearth of apostrophes. They just didn't feature in this class consciousness. Where were they? Had they crept silently out of their jotters?

It scared me a little. Then I found them. They were lurking in groups in the next set of jotters I picked up -different year group, different homework. Gathered in group's around letter's and sentence's. Picking on 'it's' whenever they appeared.

It's worrying me. Is the apostrophe mutating? Is it... alive?


Neil Winton said...

As a fellow(? - must find non-gender-specific-equivalent) English Teacher, I agree with your comments on the lesser- and greater-spotted apostrophe. I've reached the stage that I now realise why my last PT (the unflappable and dapper Ian McLaren of Larbert High School) thought that the "...damn thing should be abolished"

Anyway, I was marking a 4th year essay the other day and have now got a collection of spare apostrophes you are welcome to. I've attached them to the end of this comment along with some other waifs and strays I found.


Mrs. O'Neill's Blog said...

Thanks Neil,

I'll put them in that box under my computer :-D
Just reading the comments on Tess Watson's latest stuff on glow.
Glow, Second Trial Lesson Update

I couldn't help noticing that the apostrophe was wreaking havoc over there too...

Tess reports that when pupils tried to use the apostrophe, frames started jumping. I think we should tell her that this is a lethal combination!

Neil Winton said...

Mmmm... my ex-PT was deadly serious about getting rid of the apostrophe... maybe he took a job with Glow after he retired and this is his masterplan for the abolition of the 'lighter than air comma'!

Sid said...

Those damn apostrophes... Someone should write an apostrophe to apostrophes.

Some of the missing apostrophes can be found in the works of one Charles Schultz. I seem to recall that Woodstock talks exclusively in apostrophes.

Sean said...

Never mind the apostrophe, what about the comma, which, seems, to turn up, everywhere anyone wants, from The, to, End, with NO PROVOCATION, whatso, ever!


PS. Don't get me started on capital letters in headings.

Hannah said...

Im a second year student in BEd teaching.I think this is a very good point. Looking back to my primary education I don't think it was really ever properly taught!Or maybe it's the way that us student teachers are told to deal with mistakes in both spelling and grammar these days. To my astonishment the other day in uni we were talking about the way children react to having screeds and screeds of red pen in their jotters and how we shouldn't really correct everything they do wrong. I understand the point about the child's reaction, however the tutor continued on to tell us that spelling and grammar shouldn't really be corrected and the child should use phonics to work out spelling of words and what they have done wrong. I think in some cases this is ok, however, most words are not spelt phonetically. How are the children to learn properly if we are now getting restricted on correcting them?!I'm not really sure if I am making much sense but i was just really struck by the way the way it was presented to us.
Getting back to the apostrophes, i think that most people on my course don't actually know how or where to use them!

Mrs. O'Neill's Blog said...


These are great comments. I'm interested by your experience of teacher training. I know that I was also told to avoid correcting every mistake a pupil made.

Recently I heard a talk about 'marking less to achieve more' and one of the issues raised was how we should mark work selectively - specifically targeting the particular thing we are trying to teach at the time. That might mean not picking up on other mistakes like the apostrophe. But that's different from ignoring the problem.

What I find myself doing is using the 'two stars and a wish' type approach -where I praise pupils for what they did well -and then add in a comment about what would improve their writing.

Quite often that improvement is to increase clarity by tightening up on grammar- apostrophes, commas, whatever.

Avoid the red pen...mmmm, think I'll do a post on that!