From the Archives: The Book Doctor Weighs In On Apostrophes

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: October 26, 2010 ]

The Book Doctor sets it straight on apostrophe usage for writing on the road to publishing…

Q: When it comes to plurals for last names, which is correct? Hueys or Huey’s or Hueys’? The Robersons or Roberson’s or Robersons’? Microsoft Word always flags these as misspelled. I can never tell the difference.

A: Microsoft Word probably flags them because the words themselves, Hueys and Robersons, are not in the dictionary, plus the computer program cannot decipher whether the name is plural or possessive.

If it is strictly plural, it takes no apostrophe. Examples:
We ate dinner with Joe Huey and the rest of the Hueys.
Mike Roberson said all the Robersons are visiting next week.

If it is plural possessive, it needs an apostrophe. Examples:
We ate dinner at the Hueys’ house.
The Robersons’ dog is visiting, too.

Note that if the name ends in an s, the plural possessive for book style is to add an apostrophe and an s. Examples:
The Jones’s house is painted white.
I agree with all of the Samuels’s suggestions.

– by Bobbie Christmas

quotation marks apostropheApostrophes can be hard work. These busy little signifiers of ownership have a lot to do with how we interpret the texts we read, and it can be disastrous to get it wrong. Consider the following example:

apostrophes

All you have to do in order to get a good feel for how very, very wrong apostrophes can go is to hop on Google and search for “apostrophe errors”–the internet is rife with records of our many mistakes, including signs, newspaper headlines, and more. And of course, there’s always the worst kind of error–the kind which you tattoo on your body for permanent enjoyment/frustration:

tattoo apostrophe mistake

Here, as you can see, this person has made a simple plural into a possessive, which doesn’t suit the grammar of the sentence … at all. So, first of all, have someone else who’s familiar with the laws of apostrophe use look over your writing before you publish … and secondly, have that person read your tattoo design before you commit!

There are two great resources I’d point you to if you’re looking to re-familiarize yourself with apostrophe usage. The first comes from hashtagcritic.com and includes a really handy infographic which presents the information beautifully and succinctly:

From hashtagcritic.com.

You can find the other parts of this infographic (this is just part one!) at the link.

Another great resources is this ThoughtCo article on the subject. Again, the material is delivered in a wonderfully streamlined fashion, this time optimized for those of us who like bullet points or who need to view our apostrophe reminders on a mobile-friendly screen. (Infographics are great! But mostly at higher resolution and on larger screens.)

Long story short:

  • check your apostrophes;
  • have someone else check your apostrophes;
  • don’t tattoo anything on yourself without consulting your editor;
  • and …

apostrophe

That’s it! That’s all you need to remember about apostrophes in 2017!

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Self-publishing Manuscript Submission Tip

When I was in college, several of my less disciplined associates found a sly tactic in composing essays and papers in the Courier font face. Courier allowed them to reach the assignment’s minimum page count with significantly less actual characters or words than with a font like Times New Roman.

The reason being that Courier is a monospaced font, which gives the visual impression similar to what we were used to seeing in copy created on a typewriter, which was the result of mechanical limitations. Monospaced copy simply means that each character requires the same amount of horizontal space on a page. A period the same space as a W.

This paragraph is in Courier, a monospaced font.
Notice how all the characters take up the same
amount of space and line up in columns.

The unfortunate and universal result of the typewriter and monospaced fonts is the nasty habit of placing two spaces between sentences. Not only a visual eyesore, the practice is wrong according to our experts at the APA, MLA, and Chicago Manual of Style.

With the modern word processor and standard publishing typefaces, your manuscript should have only one space between a punctuation mark and its subsequent character. This one-space rule applies to colons, semi-colons, question marks, quotation marks, exclamation points and all other punctuation.

While potentially a pain, the time spent revising to this standard is worth your effort. Be sure to also check for hard returns before submitting to your self-publishing option for review.


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Have fun and keep writing.

Ask the Book Doctor: Punctuation

Q: What is the correct punctuation for the following?

“You makin’ fun of my name, or you be callin’ me a buzzard?” Linus asked.
Kendra’s infuriating “Whatever” was followed by “If the buzzard-shoe
fits, lace it up.”

A: The punctuation is fine as is, as long as the sentence beginning “Kendra’s” starts a new paragraph, which didn’t seem to be the case in the e-mail, but that’s a format issue and not a punctuation issue.

Also not a punctuation issue is my concern about the use of dialect (makin’, callin’) which is not recommended, for quite a few reasons. Rarely can an author maintain the dialect throughout, and when one does, dialectical dialogue grows tedious for readers. Dialect is not only difficult to write but also difficult to read, and many publishers shun it. Instead of dropping letters to show dialect, rely on word choice to show the speaking style of characters, as was skillfully done in the last piece of dialogue, “If the buzzard-shoe fits, lace it up.”



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Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at http://www.zebraeditor.com.