Misused aPostRophes


Window signage spotted in an outdoor mall in Miami

Why do misused apostrophes and other poor punctuation drive me so crazy?  Why does bad grammar–at least in written form–make me batty? As I noted in a blog post about three years ago and repeatedly since then, I’m a stickler for writing right, partially because employers demand it.

Well, maybe most employers demand it, but apparently someone in charge at American Eagle Outfitters’ corporate office does not, or worse, doesn’t know the difference. During my spring break vacation this week, I spotted yet another of the so many incorrect apostrophes which seem to be plaguing signage and ads everywhere (see the photo, left).

Grammar picGrammar mistakes abound as well. We generally can forgive poor grammar when we’re having a casual conversation, but when we see it in signs (see photo, right), papers or even resumes, the results can be comical and often costly.

It’s a point well made in a 2012 article by iFixit CEO Kyle Weins titled, “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.”  Weins gives a mandatory grammar test to every applicant. “On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair,” he wrote. “After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?” He goes on to say, “I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing…I hire people who care about those details.  Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important.  And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on resumes.  Sloppy is as sloppy does.”

Weins’ point could not be more important to anyone working in public relations or any communication-related field.  Proper grammar and punctuation are essential, and mistakes can cost you your job–or prevent you from getting a job in the first place.  If you’re not good with grammar and punctuation, become good.  If you’re good, get better. For a PR practitioner, it’s essential.  Your thoughts?

54 thoughts on “Misused aPostRophes

  1. Pamela Lacayo

    Simple grammatical errors can be made just by rushing. We are living in such a “go, go, go” society that when we are typing, whether it is for social media, texting, emailing or a press release, we are so busy trying to produce quickly that we make grammatical errors. Though it is no excuse for making them, I do believe that is the reason why we are seeing so many mistakes on a daily basis.

    I am guilty of making such mistakes. I have been making it my point to proofread before pressing the “post” or “send” button but sometimes I simply don’t have the time for it.

    Nonetheless, my work ethics should include proper grammar.

  2. A.Murphy

    It is remarkable to me how few people understand basic grammar and sentence structure. I believe that it might have something to do with the increasing amount of technology in our daily lives and our almost complete dependence on it. It seems that we are loosing our ability to communicate effectively and what some might think of as a minor error might end up becoming an entire miscommunication fiasco.
    Looking back, Shakespeare wrote amazingly beautiful and elegant lines about love, everyday life, and life’s struggles. His elegance has become so incredibly lost that, for some, reading an original Shakespeare text is like reading a different language. At what point did language become so “chill?” It might have been at the point that people started describing things as “chill.”

  3. daniellehkent

    Whenever I see grammatical errors used by anyone in a position of power I feel embarrassed for them, so I understand your horror when you saw that Aerie did that on such a large scale. It’s seriously cringe-worthy. I also know that I’ve made the mistake of sending an email prematurely without editing it for errors, so I can see how small mistakes can have major repercussions.

  4. Emily Weeks

    Being able to write correctly is important in every industry. It shows the attention to detail that the writer puts into their thoughts for others to read. If you cannot write properly, how will you be able to communicate your ideas to others?

  5. sabrinacwenar

    The truth behind being a good writer is so important in the PR industry. I have learned that it is essential to use correct grammar especially in a professional setting. I am not shocked that you came across these few mistakes because humans make mistakes, however it is something to be noted and corrected by the company immediately. I hope they catch on quickly to their mistake.

  6. Erin Schmitt

    I absolutely agree on all points. I feel really lucky that grammar was such an essential part of my high school education; even if I didn’t feel like doing it then, it has stuck with me and truly molded my writing and the detail that I take in it. I love proofreading things (honestly!), going over how the structure of a sentence can be fixed, and figuring out how aspects can or need to be changed. I read and reread everything I write countless times to scan for any possible errors, and I cannot imagine not taking the necessary time to do so. I hate reading an article or a form of written material and noticing an error; it immediately reflects on its author or brand its representing. In PR, everything needs to be carefully and meticulously considered, so it is irresponsible not to make grammar a top priority in this field of work.

  7. Nathalie

    This is also one of my biggest pet peeves, Professor Morosoff. I was discussing with my parents the other day that my generation and younger ones are especially notorious for poor grammar and writing. I would have to say that a huge proponent for this is modern technology. Probably one of the worst things to happen to writing is autocorrect. It has promoted laziness and carelessness, plus misspellings are often corrected to random words that you most likely never wished to have typed and sent. But, what’s even worse is poor grammar and spelling when we have the technology of spell and grammar check. We are all human and make mistakes, but I cannot express the importance of proof reading and asking questions. Even with emails I send out, I read and re-read, and re-read again out loud! Every piece of copy you put out is a reflection of you as a writer, so please be thoughtful.

  8. Saralynn Kupperberg

    Public relations professionals are strategic communicators, who convey their message through writing; as a result that writing must be grammatically correct. I completely agree that the use of correct grammar, especially the use of apostrophes is vital to proper communication. I am always self-conscious about my writing, because I know how important grammar is in the field of public relations. The example that you gave about American Eagle portrays a pet peeve of mine, as many companies believe that bad grammar is in line with the “brand’s image.” This idea is very prevalent on a brand’s social media, signage, and advertisements, where the lack of capitalization, commas, and apostrophes are out for the public to see. While many brands may argue that goes along with their messaging, or their brand image, all I see is bad grammar.

  9. Sharlys Leszczuk

    Grammar is essential, both to employees and employers. What I think is most absurd is when employers put up a job posting and list “Excellent writing skills a must” under qualifications when the listing has spelling and grammar errors of its own. It is just as important for the senior-level employees to write correctly as it is for entry-level applicants. There have been many instances where I have received emails from executives that I cannot decipher for the life of me. I do my best, but sometimes I need to respond back and ask them to clarify what was meant in the email. Not only do I waste time going through the text to figure out what is being articulated (or not being articulated), but the person who sent the email then has to take the time to go through and clarify what he/she meant in the original email. Regardless of skill level, it would save an extraordinary amount of time if everyone took the time to correct errors in emails so that messages are communicated effectively and efficiently.

  10. Katie Hammer

    I always find it strange when grammatical errors slip through the cracks on posters, billboards and flyers. At my two internships, when something graphical is made, many people look over it to make sure that it is grammatically correct and designed well. I agree with you that if you believe you are good with grammar and punctuation there is always someway to improve. Especially in public relations, you have to be 100 percent sure with what you are sending out to the public, and that includes correct grammar. While I do think the grammar test is a little intimidating, I believe that Kyle Weins is right; if people do not care about the little things, which are important, then the bigger things will also slip through. It’s important for pr professionals to have great writing skills.

  11. Russell Benner

    Grammatical errors in our field are unacceptable. We are representing a brand and usually trying to connect to an audience, or fix a crisis that happened. When seeing a sign in a downtown mall, i don’t think the average person even realizes what they are reading. They are so engulfed in the new bikini sale that is going on that the apostrophe is completely irrelevant. Now, if AE was to put out a press release or connect to the audience on social media, i believe the mistake would be picked up much easier.

  12. molliealexandra

    The number one piece of advice I have received from any and all PR professors and professionals has indeed been to watch out for bad grammar. In a field where writing plays such an important part of your job, one must be good at it. The somewhat unfortunate reality is that no matter how great the client you are pitching, writing a press release for and so on may be, a journalist, for example, will not even read what you have written them if it is filled with bad grammar.

  13. gmorah

    The concern is about the writer’s deliberate neglect and their attitude that grammars and punctuation errors are trivial.

    More concern is of the fact that the there are no grave and mass punishments for errors made on the offenders.

    Obviously, I share the same worry that something drastic should be done. The concern of transmission from one generation to another makes me believe that there’s a need to solve this problem.

  14. Andrea Vega

    I once had an English teacher in high school that would take a point away from our papers for every grammatical error. The results were horrifying at the beginning but my grammar eventually got so much better. Years later, I can’t believe I fell out of the habit of being mindful with my grammar while writing. It turned out being absolutely necessary!

  15. Bahati Louis

    I was always really good at making sure I wouldn’t have any spelling errors in my papers because of spell check however with grammar it’s not as simple as pushing a button which throws me through a loop. Throughout college I’ve gotten better at correcting my grammar the only thing is I hate reviewing my work again, when I’m done I want to be done and that’s my problem. Even though I’ve gotten better reviewing papers before I turn them in I still see it as tedious and I guess it never really donned on me just how important checking my grammar is. I’ve never thought of it in terms of I could lose a job or not even be considered for one because of my laziness. Knowing about this helps motivate me to be more serious about my work. My work should be a representation of myself and I should work on it just as much as I work on bettering myself.

  16. kristinaweller

    This is especially interesting to me because Aerie and American Eagle are such a large company. It shocks me that amongst all of the people that this must have gone past in order to be approved, nobody caught this mistake. Definitely embarrassing on their part, but probably won’t impact their sales considering they are such solid stores. This also makes me consider other times that I failed to double check my work before sending in a cover letter, resume, or professional email. Grammar often slips the minds of many people including myself, but it really is extremely important.

  17. zhenpanda

    I think the reason it wasn’t taken off is simply because of the fact that Aerie/American Eagle’s target audience do not take grammar seriously.

  18. SShak

    I think it is sad that it seems as though grammar is a declining standard in our society. Honestly, I think it is great that Weins forces his prospective employees to take a grammar test because it relates to your job as a whole. Details matter.

  19. capriceoliver

    I definitely agree with this blog post. Grammar and punctuation is very important. Applying for jobs and even working professionals should adhere to practicing it better. I struggle with this time to time but with practice I’m getting better with time!

  20. azachar1

    I completely agree with your thoughts in this blog post. Detail matters. I think paying attention to details shows that you are committed to your job. I personally was raised to believe that a job isn’t just a job. A job means you always go above and beyond and you show your boss that you genuinely care. I have found that this mentality has helped me succeed in my personal career journey. As many of us are looking for jobs, we have to remember that employers evaluate us on a 360 degree level, looking at EVERYTHING. From timelines, to dress, to how we interact with others in the office, we must always be aware. Punctuation should be no exception to the rule.

  21. Lauren A.

    I distinctly remember in High School my teacher one day stood in front of my sophomore English class and said, “You guys are definitely not the best writers. You have poor grammar and need to learn how to develop your writing. But this weekend I had to read graduate level papers at different universities and your writing was better than theirs. Actually your writing is better than most of the people in America.”
    This shocked me and continuing to hear things like this, writing mistakes people should know how to correct, baffles me. Writing and grammar are so important in life. I may not have the best grammar, but because of that I know I have to proofread everything and know what the basic grammar rules are. Not knowing basic writing and grammar skills makes the person look unprofessional and uneducated. I agree with the professional in the article. If someone makes a mistake when writing, especially something like a resume or email to an employer is sloppy and does link to sloppy work.

  22. John Grillea

    I agree with this post because grammatical errors can result in the message being completely misread. People are becoming entirely careless with proper grammar. I feel like texting and social media play a major role in this careless habit because it just seems to be getting worse. In the workforce it looks unprofessional and shows that they really don’t care about whatever good or service they’re providing. So then we should ask ourselves, why should we care about their business if they can’t even get a sign right?

  23. Lysa Carre

    I agree with this blog and think punctuation and grammar are crucially important, especially for PR practitioners. Public relations is defined as the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company, organization, or iconic figure. Therefore, it is fundamental to pay attention to details. If a PR practitioner cannot represent themselves as grammatically correct then how will they manage to be considered a credible source for the public to rely on? I would always strongly recommend the utilization of analytic tools and a second pair of eyes, prior to releasing public information as a PR practitioner.

  24. Vanessa Major

    I do agree that grammar is important, however I think you also have to take into consideration individuals whose first language is not English. Another consideration is that many people haven’t taken any English classes focusing on grammar since grade school, so in many instances they think they’re doing a good job in the writing department. I am not making excuses but there are a few components that take part in the way some of us write. The aim is always to get better and pay closer attention to what you put out there because there are opportunities that may be missed out on and sticklers that are out paying close attention.

  25. syanok

    I agree 100% that proper grammar and punctuation are important for PR professionals and aspiring PR practitioners. It is also important for advertisers, which is made clear in the pictures provided in your post. Although it is not always fun to go back and check our writing, it is essential to make sure our messages are not only clear and concise, but contain proper spelling and punctuation.

  26. shollwedel

    I can’t say I’m surprised that you managed to find some grammar offenses while on vacation! But you’re point rings true. Grammar is one of those things that people pay attention to, whether they know it or not. You don’t really notice grammar unless it’s something that’s causing an issue, and that leads to judgements of companies, public figures or even job applicants.
    I have to say that the reasoning behind the grammar test is a sound one. However, I do think that many people are continuously trying to improve their grasp on a language fraught with grammatical exceptions. I hope the grammar test is more of a pop quiz than something filled with rare rules and exceptions that only grammar aficionados would be aware of!

  27. xuhansite

    I totally agree with Jeffery’s opinion. As PR practitioners, we should pay attention on writing standard punctuation and grammar. Last month, I read a book called Eats, Shoots and Leaves. The writer provided a large number of examples to show that British people do not pay attention to the use of punctuation marks and make some stupid mistakes. I believe that keep on writing every day is a good way to improve our writing abilities. When we end writings, we had better double and triple check them.

  28. kn3vil

    In this case, if I were in charge, I would simply peel off the apostrophe, yet I would still seek out who had made this mistake and make sure it wouldn’t happen again. When companies are this large, mistakes like these may go unnoticed, or even publicized as the joke that they are, but would not cause any harm to the company. However, I know that professionalism never takes a day off if you want to come off as serious to people. When I write production emails, I always make sure that there will be no misunderstandings or mistakes that might make people take the production less seriously, and in turn treat it less seriously.

  29. amywangsite

    As an international student, I have been struggling to write with correct grammars for a long time. The world of grammar is just so complicated that I keep banging my head on the wall. I do agree with Weins’ point of people who can write with proper grammar and punctuation are willing to put more focus on details. I can understand how writing important is in public relations. And we should definitely need to put more effort on strengthening our writing than others. However, it should not be the main reason to decide whether we should be hired. I believe that there are many factors other than writing skill to consider, including personality, passion, past job performance, learning ability etc. Therefore, while we put so much focus on improving our writing skill, we should not neglect other communication skills to make us a better candidate in employers’ eyes.

  30. pollakvictoria

    It could very well cost someone or a business big time if there are carless grammar mistakes. It provides a bad image all around. I think intelligence does reflect on grammar and also how patient of a person you are. People are taught these things at an early age but it does slip a lot of our minds. Being correct shows how quick you are in the brain and aids to proper writing. Also it shows how patient one is because it shows that you went over to revise your work. Correct grammar is incredibly important in PR.

    1. pollakvictoria

      An ironic example is that I was rushing on my previous comment and did not proofread therefore i made a simple error.

  31. Brianna Vallelong

    Using correct grammar and punctuation, especially in the field of communications, is essential. However, I do not think it is realistic for someone to never make a grammatical error no matter how smart they claim to be. One, maybe two mistakes in a paper, article, cover letter, etc. is slightly acceptable. If someone is consistently making the same mistakes, that is a different story. It is also more difficult to excuse when the mistake was able to pass so many levels of approval before ending up on a store window display. When people don’t take the time to proofread their work or don’t see the value in doing so they are, in my opinion, making a bad lifestyle choice. In being so carefree with their language, they are leading the way for being carefree in other aspects of their lives.

  32. hassette14

    I think that it is so essential, especially as a communications professional, to use grammar correctly. One misspelling or misuse of grammar can be the determining factor in a job. It is so important to consistently proof read and even have someone else read your work before you make it public or send it to someone. Grammar is without a doubt key in the communications profession.

  33. mmolin9

    I totally agree that bad grammar is representative of a person’s performance. To me, if someone doesn’t know something as basic as grammar, then they either are careless or aren’t qualified. It shocks me sometimes how often adults make simple grammar mistakes. It is something so simple that makes a world of a difference. Even though many times it’s not that serious, it definitely always makes a difference.

  34. katericciardi

    I can’t stand bad grammar. I think that if people neglect to check their grammar, they may neglect to check bigger things too. It makes me think that the people in charge are, well, dumb.

  35. Jillian Berardi

    I absolutely agree. Proper grammar and punctuation is extremely important. I cringe every time I see a simple grammar mistake. How do you expect to be successful if you don’t know basic grammar? I also understand the importance of proofreading. I proofread my writing numerous times. I think you can always improve your writing skills, even if you are a good writer. I also think it’s a good idea to test grammar during the hiring process because employees are a reflection of the company. It would be an embarrassment to the company if an employee makes simple grammar mistakes or they don’t proofread their writing.

  36. Briana C

    it is hard to forgive grammar mistakes when it is permanently on display. To me, I feel it is a constant reminder of what could have been corrected. It’s true that many people make mistakes. However, written (or typed) mistakes can be fixed before it is published, and I think that is the part that gets to me the most. Before a publication is published, it should be checked, but it was obvious that no one did. There was a laziness to the sign that could have been professional, but ended up unprofessional.

  37. Carolyn Leonardo

    I have realized how important it is to double check your work now with taking journalism and PR Classes. I didn’t know that jobs give you grammar tests or base their decisions of hiring you from your grammar. It is important to know spelling and grammar well because once you know it you will see or hear mistakes all the time. Some mistakes I don’t think are as serious as others, but when you start to get lazy and not realize your grammar mistakes you will continue to make them. Also if you are talking to someone with bad grammar and hear their mistakes, you get an understanding of how you would look if you were the one making those mistakes. Its becomes easier to realize how important it is when there is a difference between talking well or poorly.

  38. Judea Hartley

    I think this is very true. In our public relations classes, we learn that using proper grammar is vital. Public relations is a field that deals with the public. Therefore, all PR practitioners communicate to the public by writing in some way, form, or fashion. These messages are communicated through social media posts, press releases, backgrounders, pitch letters, and fact sheets. A reporter or another PR practitioner won’t even give someone the time of day if they handed in a document that was full of grammar errors. I didn’t realize how important writing properly was until I got to graduate school.

  39. Kyle Kandetzki

    It is a frustrating landscape for a written journalist. At this level of education, mistakes are still going to happen, but not as often as I see them. I have to copy edit many articles on a weekly basis, and some have the most frustrating mistakes that could’ve been caught by a simple re-read. Many people also hope that they can skate by as broadcasters in the journalism field with average grammar skills. I know this because I have heard the indifference from many people. But that is simply not true, and I wish students would understand the importance of mastering the nuances of writing.

  40. Elaine

    I definitely agree that grammar and punctuation is important. As a PR person, writing is an important part of our work. We need to write pitch letter, press release and speech. If we use a wrong punctuation, may be it can change the meaning of the sentence. If you were a reporter, you see the paper filled with poor grammar and poor punctuation, what would you think? You must be think the writer is not a good writer. She or he is not qualified. Thus, we need to do some proofread after writing. For myself, I always made a lot of mistakes in grammar and punctuation in my assignment. I’m so sorry to my readers. I will try my best to improve my writing skills including the words, the grammar and the punctuation.

  41. Nikita Hakels

    Well, I agree and I believe like you said that proofreading is the best way to avoid such mistakes specially when you are representing such a renowned brand. Mistakes like this are just unacceptable.

  42. Tiffany Vellis

    I absolutely agree. Grammar mistakes can make or break a job offer, internship opportunity, etc. Just last summer, I was interviewing for an internship at Z100 and the first thing that the interviewer said to me was, “excellent resume and cover letter.” I re-read my resume and cover letter about ten times as well as have someone else read it over before I send it in for that reason specifically. The interviewer went on to tell me that when reading resumes, if he sees one spelling or grammatical error, he moves on. This interview further cemented something I’d already been told all my life; correct grammar and spelling is really that important in a professional environment.

  43. Rachelg

    I think, at this point in life, having good grammar is a must. Personally, if I’m talking to someone with bad grammar, I feel like I’m talking to a child. Of course in social situations grammar is usually overlooked, but in professional situations, it is vital. Employers are so quick to dismiss a possible employee because of their grammar.

  44. Lauren Denker

    I still do not understand how people in college and above can have such poor grammar. Knowing the difference between your and you’re as well as the different between their, there, and they’re is something we are taught in elementary school. I think it is a smart idea to test peoples grammar before hiring them especially if they will be writing for you or your business. Having bad grammar is a huge turn off for many employers, so I think it is important to teach that now and prepare us for the real world.

  45. Tyler Weatherly

    Grammar is extremely important for PR and everywhere else for that matter. Seeing small punctuation errors and misused apostrophes drives me absolutely insane. Not only does it look unprofessional, but it makes people seem careless and unaware. I think the idea of a grammar test for applicants is great; I agree that people who are careless in their communication skills tend to be careless elsewhere.

  46. Ari Okonofua

    Grammar is beyond important in PR. Agencies and other companies are sticklers for punctuation and grammar and hire those who are skilled in the basics. When first starting in PR, the last thing your colleagues have time to do is give you a lesson on grammar and punctuation. People should come fully-equipped with the basics and ready to jump into the position. i am also a stickler for grammar so i appreciate this post!!

  47. laurenconway97

    I completely agree! If I were to receive something without proper grammar, I would not take the person or company seriously. It says a lot about someones character if they can’t take the time and effort to double check spelling and grammar. If a person doesn’t show good work ethic before they are even hired, it looks unprofessional and proves a lack of effort.

  48. Elizabeth Giangarra

    I completely agree with Mr. Wiens distributing grammar exams to future employees. I truly believe that grammar is a vital fundamental tool when it comes to working in any communication failed and no enough people in the world pay attention to grammar when they are writing. I think that it is something that can certainly make or break someone career and by practicing and use proper grammar can only make someone better.

  49. Shawna Gregson

    I couldn’t agree more with this post and find it comical that people can overlook such blatant grammar mistakes. It just automatically makes makes the customer not necessarily trust the company that makes these kind of mistakes. It sends the message that they do not care and don’t take the time to look over their posts to make sure there aren’t any mistakes. It’s careless and isn’t the right image for any company to send to their audience.

  50. Danielle Tana

    I completely agree with Weins. Grammar and proper writing skills is essential to succeeding in any professional field. Proper writing skills are often the first tool a person uses to make a good impression when applying for a job. It’s upsetting that many people still fail the realize the importance of having proper writing skills and grammar skills.

  51. Mark J. Grossman

    Two years ago, my younger daughter, then 12, told me that she learned in school that commas can save lives. I replied that I agreed that proper grammar is very important, but “life or death”? She then wrote these two sentenses:

    “Let’s eat, grandma.”
    “Let’s eat grandma.”

  52. pjze618

    Bad grammar drives me completely insane. People who make grammar mistakes may be smart, but it shows a lack of caring about their work. At my current job, part of my duties involve looking over the annual report. Even though I and several coworkers have checked it over, we’re still catching mistakes. There’s a sense of pride when you catch a mistake and when we look at last year’s report and catch mistakes, it’s embarrassing. Even though the report is an internal handout, we still want the grammar to be as perfect as possible.

  53. Emily Racanelli

    I definitely agree that proper grammar is important. In my free time, I work as a music journalist and booking agent. In both situations, the first thing I notice is the way a person writes. If a PR professional sends me a proposal to do an album review and it is filled with grammatical errors, I immediately disregard it. The same applies to show bookings. If it is filled with errors, I won’t even bother reading it.
    Not only does it just look unprofessional, but it displays a lack of effort. It tells me the somebody couldn’t even take the time to read through the proposal. Depending on the day, I won’t even accept a single error.
    With that being said, I myself am prone to grammatical mistakes. I could write a proposal, article, etc. and read it over thirty times, hit send, and then notice a mistake. I do not think it is fair to hold people to unrealistic standards.
    The truth is that we are going to make mistakes, and we should give people some leeway. You can read something a million times and odds are there is a mistake you will not catch.
    Grammar is a paramount factor, but not something that should be blown out of proportion. Of course, if it becomes a habit, that is a different story.


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