Abolish apostrophes?

| January 13, 2012 | 2 Replies

As I worked to write a long email on my iPhone, I found myself skipping some apostrophes because the reader certainly would understand what I was trying to communicate. This made me wonder why we users of English don’t organize and officially eliminate apostrophes in many contractions. How about writing “dont” instead of “don’t”? How about “cant” instead of “can’t” (no one will confuse it with the obscure noun or little-used noun, verb and adjective versions of “cant.” Even without an apostrophe, we would instantly know what “doesnt” and “wasnt” mean. Arguments can even be made to eliminate apostrophes in possessives (we’ve actually done that in pronoun possessives (his, her, their, its).  The apostrophe, as used in contractions, was originally implemented to warn us that something is missing.  If it’s already apparent what’s missing, though, the apostrophe (at least in many cases) seems redundant.  

I checked to see whether anyone else has proposed to do away with many of our apostrophes and I found this article by Richard Nordquist, who offers many resources, including a link to the aptly named Apostrophe Protection Society.

I know that what I propose will never happen.  That is the power of path dependency.   But perhaps it is already happening unofficially, due to the way many of us are taking shortcuts on our smartphones. I know that Im not the only one who doesnt like digging out those little apostrophes and I wont be inclined to change my ways.

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Category: Language

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. Edgar Montrose says:

    If we abolish apostrophes, then what will all of the Internet illiterates use to indicate that a word is plural? http://www.apostrophe.org.uk/

    (BTW, I think that you meant “their”, not “there”.)

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