Oh these apostrophes…

The other day a marketing email popped up. I was wowed. Visually stunning the email had a bright green background – standing out in the otherwise black-and-white world of email communication – and amazing photos. The atmosphere conveyed in the photos, the quality of the photos and their content - I wanted to be there.

My attention was grabbed sufficiently to read the entire text – something I don’t often do with marketing emails. I came to the final highlighted statement. And my reaction changed. I felt for the person who had invested so much time, effort and money into this marketing campaign. Imagine, spending all that money, the button has been pushed, the email has been sent out to the key people of your entire community – when somebody tells you about the error.

I wish that the attention to detail focused on creating the visual, taking the photos, planning and creating the design, had extended to the use of language. This is what the concluding statement said:

‘You’re event…… is our reputation’!

This is what it should have said:

‘Your event… is our reputation!’

In all my writing classes I include a section on the main uses of the apostrophe. Sometimes I wonder – is this appropriate? Yet, the above example shows that yes, it is. Below is a brief explanation on when and how to use apostrophes:

  • The apostrophe is used as a contraction = two words are combined, one or several letters are omitted and replaced by an apostrophe
    • You’re late = you are late
    • It’s cold = it is cold
    • You’ve taken great photos = you have taken great photos
    • You’re event – is incorrect – even if you are an event, it would read ‘you’re an event’ – I might wonder what that means, but the language is correct.
  • The apostrophe is used to indicate possession with s
    • This is Susan’s camera = this camera belongs to Susan
    • These are the customer’s photos = the photos belong to a single customer
           =>  If you are talking about one, = singular noun, the apostrophe is before the s
    • These are the customers’ photos = the photos belong to several customers
           =>  If you are talking about several = plural noun, the apostrophe is placed after the s
  • Its or it’s? The apostrophe is only used for contraction
    • it’s = short for it is; it’s cold today = it is cold today.
    • Its = possession; the child and its toys, the house and its contents.

In addition to the misplaced apostrophe the statement

‘You’re event…… is our reputation’!

raises another question:

Where do you place quotation marks?

Outside of the exclamation mark: In this case – your event is our reputation -  the exclamation mark is used for emphasis. The complete statement is a quote ‘Your event… is our reputation!’ The quotation mark needs to follow the exclamation mark.

Before the final full stop or exclamation mark: If I ask a question: Who said “writing is easy”? The quotation mark comes before the question mark, as the quote is not the question.
Confused? I promise it is not as hard as it seems. Contact me if you have questions. It might take me only a few minutes to help you out. You never know, you might give me a perfect topic for my next blog.
If you want a set of fresh eyes to check that your marketing email, brochure or web content is free of errors – get in touch. You spend time and money to create your brand, to impress your audience with stunning visuals. Make sure the words, apostrophes and quotation marks are correct too. This will create an all round wow-effect.
Hella Bauer is a freelance writer, copywriter, copyeditor and trainer – she can write for you, copyedit your text or coach you to improve your writing. Contact Hella on hella@hellabauer.com or 027-491 7670.