A message came from a client who has written (compiled?) a 140,000-word manuscript that is in severe need of revision and correction: “I will do a bit of research on apostrophes etc as I dont (sic) know much about that stuff,” she wrote.
Why are apostrophes such a big problem for so many people? Why are they dismissed as “that stuff” as if something beyond consideration?
And what is the education system doing to allow simple punctuation to become such a problem?
“Writers” seem not to understand the basics – the difference between a plural and a possessive. Oh dear, what are we going to do?
Responses to a complaint I made about this woeful lack of education elicited the information that “we weren’t taught such things” – a situation that seems to apply to a large slice of the population who were allegedly schooled in the ’70s and ’80s.
One respondent commented that “Thankfully, most universities are now offering this type of assistance, either through an entire unit or through online study skills.” She admitted, however, that she remains unsure regarding her placement of “the dreaded comma” and that it was only as a post graduate student that she was able to work on her grammar – although “I still don’t get it.”
Two questions arise: why is it even necessary for universities (places of higher learning?) to teach the basics of grammar, and what are they doing admitting as students people who don’t know where to place an apostrophe?
Punctuation exists to provide and clarify meaning. Without it a sentence becomes at best confusing; at worst, mere gibberish.