That pesky little squiggle – Hasso Hering


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

That pesky little squiggle

Written February 28th, 2016 by Hasso Hering


I was going to let this go. After all, patients waiting in the clinic for an appointment have enough to worry about without fretting over an improvised sign. But then the latest copy of “Bicycling” came in the mail, making me think that silence is not an option. Somebody has to speak up.

Speak up about what? About the spreading plague of apostrophe misuse, of course.

The April issue of the cycling magazine arrived Saturday. I like to look through it, and in an ad for helmets I read: “Why this road? Because its here.”

OK, I thought, once can be a typo. But then it says, “Why this time? Because its now.”

As though to make up for those missing apostrophes, another ad a few pages later touts a mountain bike tire: “It’s small block tread layout and the counter-v formation easily clears the mud and debris…”

Yes, it says “clears,” suggesting that the copy writer shares not just ignorance of apostrophes with the sign writer warning non-patients to stay away from the refreshments. They also have in common a disdain for number agreement of subject and predicate.

The plural, by the way, was also a problem for the copy writer of an ad for bike shorts that explained, under the photo of a woman cyclist’s Lycra-clad derriere: “The revolutionary features and benefits of the all-new … collection isn’t just for the boys.”

I guess we can be grateful for the properly placed apostrophe in “isn’t” and overlook the number problem. But I’m thinking that for a national magazine, basic English should not be that much of a challenge.

Over the years I once or twice tried to incite readers to join a crusade to abolish the apostrophe because it is found so often in the wrong place. That campaign, you may have noticed, never got off the ground. So instead, how about we try to remember to put this little squiggle where it belongs, and only where it belongs? (hh)

7 responses to “That pesky little squiggle”

  1. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Maybe a campaign to resurrect “The Writer’s Art” by James. J. Kilpatrick could be started. Then, make it part of high school required-reading curriculum…

  2. Max stalnaker says:

    I am sure your overreacting.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      I thought my biggest gripe was “to” where “too” is needed, or “that” instead of “than,” but then “your” stared right at me ;-)

  3. Shawn Dawson says:

    Freshman English Literature. 1981. First essay. I mis-used “it’s” or “its” — not sure which after all these years.

    Paper is returned with writing on the front page stating that this is my only pass. If I mis-use it again, it’s an automatic F. That was his policy for all students — I was not singled out.

    Turns out I liked the professor and took him for two full years of literature. I never mis-used it again– at least in his class. I’ve mis-used it more than once on the web of course, where there is less chance too review and edit.


  4. centrist says:

    Ahh, grammar and punctuation. The mainstays of English teaching in 50’s grammar school.
    The proper use of synonyms “it’s ,its, two, to, too, your, you’re” were drummed into our little noggins.
    Current silly word is “irregardless”. It’s a double-negative that equals “full of regard”

  5. Jim Engel says:

    Oh please, well ya let me do a little rebellion against high school English by mis-using that ‘lil squiggle??…JE

  6. Jarrett Schwetz says:

    And while seeing eye floaters isn’t a reason to panic, in some cases, you’d be right to call your doctor; Eye floaters can also be a symptom of a more serious eye condition.


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