The "special assignment" plural apostrophe-S
Friday, May 4, 2007
I'm well behind the curve on this, but I see that the New York Times
has stopped using 's to mark spans of years and abbreviation/all-caps plurals
. As a regular reader of the NYT
, I've always considered this something of a charming affectation, like the New Yorker
's use of diereses
I didn't use to
appreciate this style choice — like probably 99.9% of the people who actually noticed it, I wasn't so much confused as I was annoyed by the apparent greengrocer's apostrophe
— but in the past year I've come around.
In fact, last summer I lost a point on an editing test for stetting DVD's
in violation of the (as-yet-unknown) house style. I don't follow the now-abandoned NYT
usage myself, but I see the rationale behind it and I don't see how there would be any problems with it in a well-cast sentence.
It's pretty obvious that the rationale for this change has more to do with prescriptivism than communication.
On the other hand, a greengrocer's apostrophe after regular, godfearing lowercase nouns is definitely WTF for me. That is, outside of actual streetside signage, where I'm used to it and understand it immediately.
(Although I would not
invite it to my Standard Edited English party (!), the greengrocer's apostrophe gets waaaay too much abuse. It's the gateway drug to smarmy prescriptivism and
a handy way to be classist without the guilt.)
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