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True Proofreading Stories

  • Writer's pictureRoss Edwards

When an Apostrophe Is a Catastrophe

Tis Not an Apostrophe

Minutes ago, an email from ComEd, one of the largest energy companies in the world, showed up in my inbox. A company with billions and billions of dollars and massive marketing budgets at its disposal.

But all the money in the world couldn't help ComEd avoid one of my biggest proofreading pet peeves.

The image here is a screen grab of the email header. Can you spot the problem? Most people probably can't -- because it's so common and people don't care about my sensitive proofreader feelings. Really, I could have used any of hundreds of examples I've seen. It's such a widespread issue that there's even a German word for it: deppenapostroph. Literally, "the idiot's apostrophe" (which is kind of a harsh opinion, I guess).

The problem is that's not an apostrophe. When it's set like that -- with the fat end at the bottom and the tail curving up and to the right -- it's a single quotation mark. An apostrophe is the one with the fat end at the top and the tail curving down and to the left. Used correctly, an apostrophe would show there are letters omitted from the word (in this case, the 'I' from 'IT IS').

It would look like a comma, but higher up...

Sometimes the problem is that whatever word processing program the artist is using auto-formats any apostrophe as a single quotation mark. One quick way around that is to type two apostrophes in a row and then delete the first one.

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