The Apostrophe Rule: When In Doubt, Don't

Retailers get apostrophe usage wrong so often that the term greengrocers' apostrophe has become synonymous with punctuation in the wrong place. This picture presents a rare double: someone misusing an apostrophe twice in a single sign in two different ways.

I snapped this shot in New Orleans during our recent trip for TechEd 2013. Neither apostrophe is necessary, and the sign would be more accurate if both were omitted. The best solution woud be no S on the end and the word 'each' after the price, but let's take it one step at a time.

Not confident in your own apostrophe usage? Can't see what's wrong with the sign? Check out our comprehensive guide to avoid the most common errors. Accuracy matters.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


    The sign-writing problem was later traced to incorrectly positioning the green line. Once corrected the local drinking delicacy the 'smargaritas' subsequently had a 500% increase in sales.

    I went searching for the drink called Smargaritas as a silly thought, a trifle, a giggle. I was quite surprised to see that in Applebee's restaurant in Winnipeg, Canada has on their menu:

    'Pitcher $40.00 Blue Bomber SMargarita'

      No, Canada does not have the drink on it's menu. That is a superfluous 'in' missed in the less that adequate proofread that leaves me red-faced.

    That's "gre'engrocers's apostrophe", I think you'll find.

    This is a good rule, however, I find that a lot of people make the mistake of not having an apostrophe in "it's". "It's" is a contraction of "it is", and is more common than "its", the possessive of "it".

    I'm constantly guilty of putting apostrophes in both. I could never get the hang of the possessive "its"

      I think you may need Bob the Angry Flower's assistance:


      Just remember that "their, his, hers, our, your" are all possessives and have no apostrophes

    I stopped using apostrophes many years ago. Im perfectly aware of the rules of usage, I just dont care to use them.
    Is strange though, I hate typos, I hate abbreviated spelling, I hate poor or incorrect grammar. . . but I dont give a damn about apostrophes.
    I just feel that apostrophes are unnecessary in this day and age. A sentence is still completely comprehensible without the use of apostrophes.

    I believe that the signwriters code fo conduct should include a penalty for the misuse of such punctuation. Thus I introduce: The Apostra Fee!

      You win the comments section. ...Or should that be comments' section?

    The best solution woud be no S on the end and the word ‘each’ after the price, but let’s take it one step at a time.

    Bloody Mary, $5 each? That doesn't sound right. Surely need to have more than one if you are using each?

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now