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The Master
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Post by The Master » Sun Sep 02, 2007 9:55 am

Apostrophes are generally considered optional but are not 'preferred' (which basically means that fewer people will regard the usage as correct) in pluralised abbreviations such as OAPs, and tend not to be used at all in well known abbreviations such as CDs and MPs. Increasingly, apostrophes in common abbreviations such as CD's and MP's are considered by many to be incorrect, and so on balance are best avoided. The use of apostrophes is more likely to be preferred and seen as correct where the abbreviation contains periods, such as M.P.'s or Ph.D.'s, although in general the use of periods and apostrophes in abbreviations is becoming less popular and therefore again is probably best avoided. In single-case communications (all capitals, or no capitals - which is increasingly popular in emails and texts) omitting apostrophes in pluralised abbreviations can cause confusion, so forms such cds or CDS should be avoided if possible, although the 'correct' punctuation in this context is anyone's guess. Grammatical rules change much slower than real life. Other plural abbreviations or shortened words such as photos (photographs), mics (microphones), could technically still be shown as photo's and mic's, reflecting older traditional use of the apostrophe in abbreviated words, but these days this is generally considered to be incorrect. The use of apostrophes in numbers, such as 1980's or over-50's, is also less popular than a generation ago, and whilst optional, apostrophes in numbers are increasingly regarded as incorrect, so the safer preferred forms for the examples shown are 1980s and over-50s. The use of apostrophes is still preferred for pluralising short words which do not generally have a plural form, such as in the statement: there are more x's than y's, or do's and don't's. The last example makes for a particularly confusing form and is another common spoken term that's probably best avoided putting in print or in any sort of formal communication (because even if you get it right there's a good chance that the reader will think it wrong anyway..)

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DrBlue
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Post by DrBlue » Sun Sep 02, 2007 10:03 am

Apologies for double-posting but the original subject reminded me of something that happened to me and a friend when we were serving with the Army in Canada.

My friend asked a woman where the nearest cash machine was, to which she replied that she had no idea what a cash machine was let alone where the nearest one was located.

My friend, instead of explaining the function of said cash machine which would've given the lady some clue as to what it was he actually wanted, proceeded to ask the same question in a typically British fashion.

"Cash machine, you know, CCCAAAAASSSSHHHH MMMMMAAAACCCCHHHIIIINNNNEEEE...."
"I'm sorry I just don't understand what it is that you want."

For another five minutes he continued under the false pretense that someone who doesn't understand you will miraculously do so if you say it repeatedly, loudly and slowly. When the lady started to suspect that 'Cash Machine' was British for 'you're being mugged,' I decided to enter the conversation:

"My friend here would like to know where the nearest ATM is."
"Ahhhhh, there's one across the street there."
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djcarlos
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Post by djcarlos » Sun Sep 02, 2007 1:54 pm

DrBlue wrote:The apostrophe is (almost) always used to replace one or more letters. For instance:

Is not - Isn't
Does not - Doesn't
You are - You're

It is often also used to replace 'is' and denote belonging such as:

Dave's not home
Where is Dave's car

A mistake i often make is the possessive form of 'it' which should not have an apostrophe, for instance:

The dog ate it's dinner - is incorrect
The dog licked its nuts - is correct

An apostrophe can only be used in 'it's' when it is being used to replace 'it is.' So:

It's four o'clock - is correct
Its time to go - is incorrect

Apostrophes may never be used to denote plurals, therefore CD's is incorrect unless you are referring to something the CD owns or is a property of the CD. For example:

I have four CD's - is incorrect
This is the CD's first track - is correct
Hear hear!
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SirClive
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Post by SirClive » Sun Sep 02, 2007 2:40 pm

My aren't you all a bunch of grammar nazi's :wink:
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rossi46
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Post by rossi46 » Sun Sep 02, 2007 4:39 pm

DrBlue wrote:The apostrophe is (almost) always used to replace one or more letters. For instance:

Is not - Isn't
Does not - Doesn't
You are - You're

It is often also used to replace 'is' and denote belonging such as:

Dave's not home
Where is Dave's car

A mistake i often make is the possessive form of 'it' which should not have an apostrophe, for instance:

The dog ate it's dinner - is incorrect
The dog licked its nuts - is correct

An apostrophe can only be used in 'it's' when it is being used to replace 'it is.' So:

It's four o'clock - is correct
Its time to go - is incorrect

Apostrophes may never be used to denote plurals, therefore CD's is incorrect unless you are referring to something the CD owns or is a property of the CD. For example:

I have four CD's - is incorrect
This is the CD's first track - is correct
Sometimes, it's a total relief just being here on these boards.
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Xesh
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Post by Xesh » Sun Sep 02, 2007 5:43 pm

rossi46 wrote:Sometimes, it's a total relief just being here on these boards.
But are you really here, or do you just think you are? :lol:

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CraigGrannell
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Post by CraigGrannell » Sun Sep 02, 2007 7:41 pm

The Master wrote:Apostrophes are generally considered optional but are not 'preferred'
It depends on the style guide that you 'subscribe' to, and, to some extent, where you live. Frankly, stick an apostrophe in 'CDs' in the UK, and your editor will strangle you. In US-English, it's more often used. (Oddly, I'm pretty sure one of the broadsheet style guides in the UK also requests the apostrophe, although that's mostly to do with visual style, because the apostrophe works better in headings.)

The problem with using the apostrophe in the likes of 'CDs' is that it implies ownership, and you therefore need to examine context in order to figure out why the apostrophe is there—exactly the reason for its existence in the first place. (In other words, you shouldn't have to think about it.)
The use of apostrophes is still preferred for pluralising short words which do not generally have a plural form
Again, not in the UK, unless you want an angry sub-editor yelling at you down the phone.
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Emperor Fossil
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Post by Emperor Fossil » Sun Sep 02, 2007 8:45 pm

Here's a question. Should apostrophes be used in the following sentences in order to avoid ambiguity?
Suppose somebody wrote: 'My cat likes to eat Scrabble tiles. Last week he swallowed two I's and three A's.'

'I really need to get some A's this semester. I've scored nothing but F's since the start of the year. Maybe it's because I keep smoking too much pot and taking too many E's.'
I don't really like the look of these sentences with the apostrophes, but are they too awkward without them?

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Dudley
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Post by Dudley » Mon Sep 03, 2007 4:24 am

No they shouldn't. However you could use quote marks I believe.
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CraigGrannell
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Post by CraigGrannell » Mon Sep 03, 2007 5:00 am

Dudley wrote:No they shouldn't. However you could use quote marks I believe.
You're mostly right, but it does depend on the style guide you're writing for. Chances are, that UK broadsheet I mentioned would have a heading such as "More A's for GCSE students this year", because in all caps it'd otherwise be "MORE AS FOR GCSE STUDENTS THIS YEAR". (That said, one could easily argue that the headline should just be rewritten, to put the 'A' itself into the singular via something like 'A-grades'.)

In the US, Emperor Fossil's sentence would be more acceptable, however—even fairly commonplace.

As for anyone who things apostrophes are pointless and stupid, consider the following:

The baker's knife
The bakers' knife
The bakers knife

Three different apostrophe positions (well, two positions and one omission), and therefore three totally different meanings.

The baker's knife (the knife belonging to the baker)
The bakers' knife (the knife belonging to the bakers)
The bakers knife (the action the bakers perform—THE PSYCHOS!)
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Dudley
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Post by Dudley » Mon Sep 03, 2007 5:19 am

I'd still say the broadsheet should use the quotes rather than breaking the language.
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CraigGrannell
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Post by CraigGrannell » Mon Sep 03, 2007 5:23 am

Dudley wrote:I'd still say the broadsheet should use the quotes rather than breaking the language.
I agree. Still, you write as you're told to write. (Well, or you don't and the subs mess around with what you write anyway.)
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chewy
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Post by chewy » Mon Sep 03, 2007 5:39 am

necronom wrote:
chewy wrote:My girlfriend's copy of said book has a massive error on the FIRST PAGE, involving a word that shouldn't be there, so I can't take it seriously. Whether or not it was supposed to be there for you to notice I never found out, as I was so disgusted the author was preaching good grammar I threw the book down! :D
I've just read the first page of the intro to the hardback, and I didn't notice anything wrong. You might be referring to a different page though.
Paperback... I'll ask her to borrow it and scan it sometime.

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Dudley
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Post by Dudley » Mon Sep 03, 2007 7:17 am

CraigGrannell wrote:
Dudley wrote:I'd still say the broadsheet should use the quotes rather than breaking the language.
I agree. Still, you write as you're told to write. (Well, or you don't and the subs mess around with what you write anyway.)
Well indeed.
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CraigGrannell
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Post by CraigGrannell » Mon Sep 03, 2007 7:39 am

Personally, I'm still finding it mildly amusing that the thread's title (the thread being one slagging off people's ability—or lack thereof—to "talk proper" and to punctuate) has a punctuation error.
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