Use of apostrophe?

Subject: Use of apostrophe?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 15:24:10 -0500

Mike reports: <<I am trying to convince some developers that an apostrophe
is for use for a contraction or to show possession. They are of the
impression that the plural form of acronyms also needs an apostrophe. MoS
and I say no. These are the examples: The SKUs will need to be determined.
The PCs will be shipped in separate boxes. We have lunch riding on this.>>

Going to Microsoft for language style recommendations is like asking Apple
to recommend the best PC operating system. You might get good advice, but
don't count on it.

Looks to me like you'll be sharing the bill with the developers if you're
honest. <g> Although your interpretation of the rules is right as a general
rule, older style guides suggested using the apostrophe for clarity where
the noun being pluralized could be confused as another part of speech or
another word if you simply added an "s". Modern usage still retains this
practice. For example, consider "Words beginning with As come before words
beginning with Bs in the English alphabet." As you know <g>, this could be
misread easily: words that don't begin with "as" (e.g., aardvark vs.
assessment) might not come before words that have BS at the start <g>. Not
the best example, but it illustrates the point nicely.

Thus, guides such as the well-respected and broadly used Chicago Manual of
Style (14th edition) provide accepted examples of using the apostrophe as a
plural: "Mind your p's and q's" is one of the more famous ones. Techwhirler
tie-in: Clarity of meaning is important, and if you're not going to reword
the sentence to avoid a possible misreading (e.g., "Words that begin with
the letter A come before words that begin with the letter B..." etc.)

Of course, if you're willing to be strictly literal about your bet, your
specific examples require no apostrophe, and mentioning the exceptions to
this rule would only confuse the poor dears. <g>

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at
www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/usersadvocate.html

"With Linux, customers end up being in the operating systems business,
managing software updates and security patches while making sure the
multitude of software packages don't conflict with each other."--Microsoft
spokesperson in a News.com article

"And just how would that be different from Windows?"--Adam Engst, TidBITS

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