My current pet word peeve: People who don't seem to understand that an apostrophe 's' indicates possession - not the plural. I can't tell you the number of times I've see somebody referring to many of something with an 's.
I find that error really (real?) annoying.
Well then you must really go crazy over possessives and plural form for words ending in "s"..... I had English teachers who could not get it right! (Remember to consider that ending in "s" doesn't always mean it is a plural form!)
I don't know if they still teach it this way, but back when I was in school, possessives that ended in an s
were written as an s+apostrophe
. As in: Hans' hands were holding Hoss' horses' saddles. (Hmmm...not bad!)
I will mention that certain uses of the apostrophe+s to indicate plural form seem to feel very comfortable, while writing it correctly feels awkward. Some even postulate that using 's with certain acronyms and abbreviations that would otherwise look confusing is indeed proper!
Agree with you 100% on that.
Plural of the letter x. xs? Doesn't x's just feel better? Plus in most cases no one would think that it indicates the possessive case of the letter "x".
That's a tougher one. We used to get taught that if a word ended in in an H
, or X
, then the plural was made by adding an 'es
' to the end of the word rather than just a plain 's
Example: Boss (singular); bosses (plural); boss' (singular possessive); bosses' (plural possessive). I don't know if this is still the standard taught today.
Possessives can still be tricky in other ways. Consider:
Be sure to check the box's
contents. (singular possessive)
Be sure to check the boxes'
contents. (plural possessive)
We would be expected to add additional "clarifying" words when constructing sentences like those in order to avoid the dreaded "awkward grammar" correction. That's when you got marked down for a lack of style even though you were technically correct. (There's a valuable life lesson lurking somewhere in there.
So the first sentence would probably have been written: Be sure to check (this/that) box's contents.
And the second would have been written something like: Be sure to check (all/every/those) boxes' contents.
Another is, "I was using Morse code to send SOSs". Doesn't it feel better to write, "I was using Morse code to send SOS's".
Actually, if I were doing something like "walking on the moon..." all the while hoping "my leg won't break" ... and I suddenly found I was in a situation where I'd need to be "sending out an S.O.S." (maybe to to Roxanne ?) I wouldn't be giving a flying apostrophe as to how well it looked or sounded. Just so long as somebody understood it sent me some help.
But you're quite right. It's impossible to cover all instances with a blanket rule. Take SOS. Is it more correctly written S.O.S. (as I was taught) or do we go with the newer SOS sans periods? If we go with the cleaner looking SOS, then your SOS's
are more effective in conveying what you mean than something like SOSes
. Assuming, of course, you simply meant to convey the notion of a number of SOS signals, as opposed to something like the SOS's signal quality or point of origin.
As you can see, there's sometimes no good way to do it.
I used to go out of my way to rewrite sentences when trying to make an awkward plural form less confusing. Just like I once went nuts attempting to ensure that I NEVER ended sentences with prepositions. However I finally gave up and I now write it in a way that "feels" right to me - even when I know it is not grammatically correct.
I'm with you. Anybody who has ever had to deal with the way I speak and write will tell you I'm the first to wing it, either for effect, to make a joke, or just to be sure I'm getting my point across. Once, when criticized for his way he constantly misspelled words, President Andrew Jackson retorted, “It's a damn small mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.” I'd be inclined to go a step further and say the same goes for blind adherence to arbitrary rules when they get in the way of what we're trying to convey. BTW: Did any of that make sense?