'An Apostrophe Is The Difference Between...'

..."a business that knows its shit and a business that knows it's shit." Put another way, the devil is in the details and paying attention to fine points (grammar or otherwise) can make or break you.

Blogger Sam Tanner tweeted a couple of days ago — for International Apostrophe Day, apparently: "An apostrophe is the difference between a business that knows its shit and a business that knows it's shit." This applies especially to those little careless mistakes that really matter — ones on new business proposals, resumes, introduction emails, etc.

One of the most memorable stories a former boss told me was of a big client who turned down an advertising pitch because of just one misspelled word: If that one word was misspelled, the client reasoned, how could he trust handing over a whole campaign?

Everyone's prone to making little mistakes when rushing, but the moral of the story is that if you don't think of your business or career as shit, make sure you double-check (or triple-check) your stuff when it counts the most. Not sure what's right and what's wrong? Check out our guide to using apostrophes correctly.

[via @sam_tanner_]



    Bob the Angry Flower. My personal guru.

    And a comma is the difference between "helping my uncle Jack, off a horse" and "Helping my uncle Jack off a horse"

    Grammar is the difference between:
    "helping your uncle Jack, off a horse" and
    "helping your uncle jack off a horse".

      Actually, to make that work unambiguously you need two commas: "Helping your uncle, Jack, off a horse".

        Actually, to make that work unambiguously you could use two capitals: “Helping your Uncle Jack off a horse”.

      I think it was his Uncle not yours. I mean that would really be freaky... I'm all for being friendly but there is a line

    I would say that people should actually get other people to check their work rather than do it themselves. One service I provide is proof reading; I'm very good at it. I quickly learned though, there is little point in proofing you own work, and it becomes increasingly pointless as the length and complexity of a document increases. People tend to skim over areas they assume are correct.

    On an interesting note, I produce a lot of educational resources. The WORST writers are teachers, and the worst of those are deputy principals. This is also especially true of English teachers, from whom I used to expect much higher standards.

      +1 for getting other people to check your work.

      I used to have a boss who would compose company wide emails and then check them by reading them out to us (as opposed to sending them to us for correction). Inevitably he'd read what he WANTED it to say, not what it actually said. The whole department looked like a pack of muppets when he'd send out things with poor grammar, spelling and mixed/contradicting messages.

      For example, you just proofed your own work and I just found:

      "there is little point in proofing you own work"

      Which really should be:

      "there is little point in proofing YOUR own work"

      Little things make a difference ;)

        No matter how good you are (and I pride myself on grammar in most situations) you'll always miss something.

        So I definitely agree, getting an extra set of eyes is always beneficial.

      Are you kidding me? A few bad apples don't spoil the bunch. I'm an English teacher, and I have been writing grammatically perfect sentences since 4th grade. You're a jerk.

        I believe that idiom is that one rotten apple spoils the barrel, not the bunch. Perhaps because apples don't come in bunches.

        This said, I'm not an English teacher so I could be mistaken.

        lynne, that would be "gramatically-perfect sentences". You missed the hyphen. So did you just now end your perfect career, or are you simply mistaken in your belief? And names are proper nouns and start with a capital, dear. Perhaps more study of the English language is in order.

    Spelling, grammar and punctuation is all fugged today. I quit a job because I was too embarrassed to work for someone who completely murdered the English language. Her excuse was that she "didn't have time to check that shit and people will understand what I'm on about". She didn't know the difference between archive or achieve and she loved to obliterate cliches - "I'm just going to go in there all guns and roses" was a personal favourite.

      Your boss sounds weirdly similar to mine, except my boss is a dude.

      Hah! "Go in there all guns and roses!" I love it. I'm gonna use that.

      You go in and tell people, straight faced, in a meeting:

      "Welcome to the jungle. We've got fun an games. But nothing last forever. Even cold November rain."

        you see? Just then I made a bunch of mistakes. Arg. 'and' and 'lasts', should be.

      Daz: Spelling, grammar and punctuation ARE all fugged today. Ensuring subject-verb agreement seems to be a disappearing skill in speech and writing alike.

    I always reject job applications with obvious mistakes.

    The new national curriculum -- purported to include major improvements to the teaching of grammar and spelling (i.e. bringing them back from oblivion) -- cannot come soon enough.

    In years gone by English teachers were, by and large, stalwarts for correct spelling and punctuation. The current crop couldn't be trusted to spell "stalwarts" without at least one apostrophe. To think these people are employed to teach English to our kids... It's an absolute disgrace.

      There is zero research support for direct grammar and spelling instruction. One's grammatical and spelling skills improve with one thing: reading. Lots and lots of reading.

        Bob - That's what I thought, but my husband and sons are all avid readers but very ordinary punctuators. There has to be someone who fosters an understanding of how to do it properly - and why. Can't say I can remember everything I learned about parsing, but the fact I did learn it has stood me in good stead for 50 years. Realised a bit late that I was the only person who cared enough to try and set my sons straight on the subject - slowly getting there!

    and a comma is the difference between:
    "fucking a dude"
    "fucking a, dude"


      I would say that's more of an issue of capitalisation :P

    I have been more tolerant of grammar knuckleheads recently; these people have their uses. They might misuse an apostrophe, but it's a mistake to characterize their entirety by such a small error. After all, if the toilet's overflowing, you don't call an English professor.

      Awesome! I agree, Bob. Just as will always need Alphas to lead us, we will always need Epsilon semi-morons to do the nasty cleaning jobs.

    Two department managers at my old job were contantly making spelling mistakes on memos. It was very embarrassing.

    "It's" can have an apostrophe for possession or a contraction, can't it?

      NO! The apostrophe is only for contraction.

      This blog post was made for people like you.

      "Its" is a pronoun, like "his" or "hers". "It's" is a contraction for "it is". Totally different. One doesn't use an apostrophe for "hi's" or "her's". Or, at least, one shouldn't.

        Spelling, grammar and punctuation ARE...

        Its, her and his are possessive adjectives, not pronouns.

        "It's" can also be a contraction for "it has".

    Some of you may have heard that grammar saves lives...

    "Let's eat Grandma!"
    "Let's eat, Grandma!"

      It can even inspire cannibalism or a soccer player:
      "Look on the road ahead!"
      "Look on the road, a head!"

    This comment thread is particularly hilarious, as we're all making comments about grammar but we're making little mistakes!

    Gotta be able to laugh at yourself, hey?

    Isn't the possessive of "it" actually its'? Its without the apostrophe would, grammatically anyway, refer to more than one it. SO, the CORRECT usage should be "A company that knows its' shit"

    it's = it is
    its' = possessive it
    its = more than one it (also them in other contexts)

      NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Wrong and wronger! Was this a serious comment?

      Actually Elron:

      it’s = it is
      its = possessive it

      I'm not sure what the 3rd one is? Isn't it the same as 2nd?

        The third one is almost comical; what is an it, and how can there be more than one? "I have five its." WTF?

    Another cartoony how-to guide:

    @Elron Steeke
    "It's" seems to be the case that confuses a lot of people who otherwise understand how apostrophes should be used.

    The easiest way to get it right every time is to remember that the ONLY time "it's" has an apostrophe anywhere is when used as a contraction for "it is". It never has an apostrophe when indicating possession and never has the apostrophe at the end.

      Or "it has", Zak.

      Ostensibly instructional webpages like that Oatmeal one annoy me because they themselves contain errors. I can't access it at work but from memory, the Oatmeal advises that referring to letters as, for example, "p's and q's" is acceptable, whereas the way I understand English this is not the case. It should be either ""P"s and "Q"s", "'P's and 'Q's" or "Ps and Qs". Adding a single apostrophe, "for clarity," is not acceptable.

        Apologies for Lifehacker's (Wordpress's) woeful interpretation of my 66s and 99s. :/

    Not exactly a grammar or punctuation mistake, but in the past we rejected a job applicant who confused "complimentary" with "complementary" on both her cover letter and her résumé. That's one that drives me absolutely insane. Another is the confused use of "reigns" for "reins", as in "the reigns of power." Aaarrrggghhh!

    The difference between a panda and a hungry bank robber:
    Eats shoots and leaves.
    Eats, shoots and leaves.

      Julia, you missed the second comma:
      "Eats, shoots, and leaves."

        In US English style, the comma before "and" is compulsory. In Australian (and British) English, it isn't, though this is one of the examples where you might use it for clarity.

    English is one of the hardest languages to learn. It wasn't constructed with the same kind of logic and flow that went into other languages, but rather cobbled together from pieces of other languages. It's got Germanic structure but Latin vocabulary, and more contradictions than rules. But it's a language, and it can be learned and used correctly. At some point some fools decided it was more important to encourage creativity and confidence than to correct a student's spelling and grammar. So now we have a generation of semiliterate people confidently and creatively abusing the language and looking like idiots to those of us who did learn to use it correctly, and having their job application rejected. Bravo! Stellar achievement in confidence building. And the sad part is, it's not as if this generation will all end up in menial jobs and fade away; no, they'll become the population and their damaged language will become the norm. You can already see mistakes in ads by large companies that can afford an editor. Apparently they no longer think it makes them look unprofessional. Sadly, they're increasing correct.
    Languages evolve, and maybe English more than others (wouldst thou agree?), but really, should we accept needless decay as normal evolution?

    Americanisation (laziness?) has deprived English words of their Latin roots eg. colour, vigour

    When working, I typeset classified advertisements. The worst apostrophe I saw in customer's written draft was:

    Ford V8 for sale, goe's well.

    Punctuation is the difference between a child suggesting a lunch break: "Let's eat, mommy." and cannibalism: "Let's eat mommy."

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now