People who misuse the apostrophe, Part 1: The rule about apostrophes is so simple: If it’s plural there’s no apostrophe. How hard is that? Other than the period, which tells people to STOP, this is the easiest punctuation mark. Will the “Johnson’s” and “Smith’s” of the world explain to me why this rule is so difficult to understand?
People who misuse the apostrophe, Part 2: What’s the deal with “it’s” and “its”? “It’s” is a contraction, meaning “it is.” “Its” is possessive. If people read their sentences by substituting “it is” for “it’s” — “it is condition was serious” — it wouldn’t make sense. That means “it’s” is wrong.
People who make up their own punctuation style: At a business meeting the other day a guy who specializes in risk assessments said he likes to put commas and periods outside closing quotation marks. I told him that’s not the recognized style of any of the major stylebooks in the United States. He told me he felt it was a “choice,” not an absolute rule. That’s like saying the Ten Commandments are the Ten Suggestions.
People who put commas where they don’t belong: There are several correct ways to use a comma; an incorrect way is to add one just because it seems like the appropriate time. I know a writer who submits an occasional article for her company’s newsletter. Her article always includes a misplaced comma. When I ask why the comma is where it is, I get this response: “Well, I hadn’t used a comma in a while so I thought I should put one in.” Where’s the Maalox?
Their, there, and they’re; your and you’re: When did they stop teaching homophones in school?