I'm writin' to you 'cos you've been so abused lately. I thought you might like some company. Seems that folks don't get you. I feel for you because I've always been a bit of a weirdo myself. Mainly, I'm weird because of wanting to talk with punctuation marks, when the appropriate behaviour might be to talk about punctuation. Which I do. A lot. Maybe excessively. Anyway. You must feel terrible about how you've been misused.Or maybe you don't. I hope that's not out of desperation. I know that I would if I were you. And, don't get me wrong, I'll be writing to Ms. Subjunctive some day too, but not today. Just the other week, I spent more than ten minutes in my class detailing one error that I must've seen at least 200 times this term alone. And, oddly it requires an extra bit of typing on the keyboard to make. Oh yes. You're probably used to hearing all about the it's vs its usage issues, and I certainly hear you on that. It's still happening. There's a new twist, though, and it's all about possessive and plural and third person singular.
I know. I know. It's like listening to a one-sided conversation. Isn't it?
Well, I tell you honestly here. If I see one more verb conjugated with an apostrophe, I might have to undertake some additional letter writing. And I do mean individual, actual, real alphabetical letters, and not what I'm writing to you today. When I see something like, "Kate Chopin show's the reader's that M'rs. Mallard died of the "monstrous joy", I seriously want to kill myself. Wouldn't you? You're being murdered anyway, aren't you? What's the difference?
It's not like I would say to any of my students, "Hey back in the day, we wrote out the word apostrophe three thousand times until we knew how to spell it and now you guys can't even use your baby finger to reach over to the far right of the QWERTY board." No. I don't blame. Do not blame. No. I am curious, though. I was correcting papers before cell phones were widely used and I still encountered rampant it's/its errors, though fewer of the say's and character's (as plural) types of mistakes.
I do know that I don't use the apostrophe when I text on my own phone. This is not being radical. It has to do with the fact that my cell phone is very stupid and to get an apostrophe, I have to switch the keyboard configuration and then press one button three times to get the symbol. I use an asterisk instead. So, while I am writing to you in a compassionate spirit here, I am also guilty of some pretty serious apostrophe abuse myself.
It is true that the plural, possessive and third person singular get all mixed up in the apostrophe wars of student writing. There is another aspect to this battle, I'm afraid. Remember when poetry used to matter? Or should I say, remember when a line of poetry had a particular number of beats that contributed to some larger frame? Sometimes these beats would be collaps'd with a little apostrophe -- it's a contraction, but on words that might not be shorten'd in this way today. This buggers most students who then claim that all poetry is a foreign language. Blaming the poetry. Imagine. I suppose this is better than blaming your mother, which I had two students do this week regarding two separate instances of cheating. That is another story.
In the family of punctuation, apostrophe, who are your parents? The semi-colon is more misunderstood, I believe, but less difficult to correct. I must say, though, that I have received the semi-colon instead of the apostrophe on a number of occasions. And certainly, while texting, I've used a comma instead of an apostrophe because as I've mentioned, my phone is stupid. Is the apostrophe like a beaten up colon, winking at it's [sic] enemy. Is there any irony in the misuse of an apostrophe? I sometimes wonder as I've encountered one too many compositions articulating the universal desire to "live life to it's fullest." Does Eminem have anything to do with this? Ladytron? Lady Gaga?
So, yes. I find myself writing to you dear, abandoned, over and under-used and abused apostrophe. There is another use to you that I'd like to acknowledge while we're at it, oh once mighty apostrophe. I am addressing you and I wish you were human because then there might be a facebook group that could save you or prevent further damage. Oh apostrophe, I am sorry. Forgive them (and me).