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My pet hates 9 – apostrophe catastrophe 1

There is an easy way to mess up the meaning of a word or a whole sentence for that matter by moving a single character back and forth. I’m referring to the humble apostrophe and it irritates me to see it in the wrong place.

The author of a website dedicated to green technologies recently wrote the following: “… the World Bank has just released Green Bonds offering individual investors’ extremely competitive returns …”

There is no need for an apostrophe here. Investors were offered extremely competitive returns. By putting an apostrophe after investors the author displayed a poor grasp of a grammatical term known as possessive s, which shows that something belongs somewhere.

The returns were arguably not yet in the possession of investors. If they were, the sentence might have read: “Individual investors’ extremely competitive returns on Green Bonds have shaken up the market.”

We usually add ’s to a singular noun and an apostrophe ’ to a plural noun. For example:

• The investor’s returns (one investor)
• The investors’ returns (two or more investors)

Here is another example, a company announcement: “Our customer’s feedback is helping to define where we are currently spending our time and money.”

This suggests the company only has one customer. What a pity. The author could of course have avoided the problem by simply writing: “Customer feedback is helping …. “

To be continued…

I welcome your comments.

Rolf Soderlind

http://www.absolutwriting.com/ absolutwriting


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