1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email
Richard Nordquist

Swatting Apostroflies

By April 9, 2008

Follow me on:

Discovered in 2002 by British journalist Ian Mayes, the apostrofly is "an insect which lands at random on the printed page depositing an apostrophe wherever it alights" (Only Correct, Guardian Books, 2005). Not surprisingly, apostroflies are attracted to food:

Unfortunately, the little critters are also drawn to many other varieties of nouns (along with a few pronouns):

Clearly, no website is off limits to the impudent apostrofly:

A charitable chap, Ian Mayes refuses to believe that human error is responsible for the swarms of needless apostrophes clouding English prose. That would be dyspunctional behavior on an impossibly grand scale.

Others are less forgiving. Fans of Lynne Truss (she who Eats, Shoots & Leaves) favor the expression "greengrocer's apostrophe"--unfairly tagging a single profession in a world of overzealous punctuators.

But crueler still is the sort of verbal abuse--nitwits, half-wits, dimwits--that the Punctuation Police hurl at profligate apostrophizers. Down that mean street we refuse to go.

So we'll continue to swat at apostroflies--those marks, often attached to plural nouns, that serve no other purpose than to rile readers who know how to use apostrophes correctly. Whoops--hold still. Here's another one:

Have you spotted any apostroflies lately? If so, click on the comments button below and swat them here.

And please visit our Guidelines for Using Apostrophes Correctly.

More About Apostrophes:


April 12, 2008 at 6:54 pm
(1) Tim says:

No, I have not encountered any apostroflie’s.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.