Do you wonder about the price of bananas? Do you cringe at the misspelling? Or does your mind come up with a sarcastic thought like “Banana’s what is on sale? What does a banana own?” (Yes, that would be me.)
It’s been a long while since I’ve harped about grammar and word usage, but the trend I’ve noticed lately prodded me to start again. What I’m seeing more and more often is the possessive form of a noun used when the plural form was intended.
For instance: banana’s instead of bananas.
I even saw this error in an Active Rain headline recently. Ouch!
The difference is the apostrophe. When you see it used after a noun, it indicates possession:
- The banana’s color.
- The car’s interior.
- The cat’s toy.
A noun with an apostrophe s (‘s) has to be followed by something belonging to that noun.
Otherwise, it’s just a sentence that doesn’t mean anything.
What difference does grammar and word usage make?
Plenty of people have told me that my nit-picking about grammar and proper word usage is silly. They say “As long as people know what you mean, that’s all that counts.”
Sure. They’re right. And that’s exactly why proper usage is so important.
When you use the wrong word, people don’t always know what you mean. They have to stop and try to figure it out. In a marketing message that’s a disaster, because it interrupts the flow and destroys the impact of your message. Plus it makes you look like you either have poor verbal skills or poor attention to detail.
It could be even worse in a purchase and sale agreement, where a misunderstood message could land you in the middle of a lawsuit.
If you don’t know the difference between a plural and a possessive – learn!
Your career could depend upon it.
Meanwhile… there’s much more to know about apostrophes. If you’d like to know more, visit Grammar Girl.
Graphic courtesy of stuart miles at freedigitalphotos.net