Wild Apostrophes

© 2012 JoAnn Reno Wray

I haven’t read articles in the newspaper, seen Internet stories, nor heard it reported by TV newscasters, but I’m convinced a large herd of wild apostrophes has escaped from the punctuation zoo and is multiplying with abandon.

How do I know? I’ve spotted them everywhere—

haphazardly perched on roadside signs, nesting on placards in stores, and parading shamelessly all over the Web.

A sign in a department store made me feel assaulted. It read:

One is Your’s Free when You Buy 2 Sweat’s at

30% Off in Todays Sale

My right eye twitched. I groaned, automatically reaching in my purse for my black marker.

When I pulled it out, my husband Roger sighed and said, “Oh no. Not again.” He then disappeared.

It’s strange, but I’ve been asked to leave stores just for correcting signs with abused apostrophes. As I recapped the marker, a throat cleared behind me. I turned to see a young clerk, all of eighteen, weighing maybe ninety pounds.

“What are you doing?” she asked, chewing a fingernail.

Obviously, she was malnourished and not thinking clearly, or she would have realized the value of the service I’d just provided. “I fixed your sign. There shouldn’t be an apostrophe on the words yours or sweats—they are just plural—but there is one on today’s.” I smiled. “That apostrophe indicates possession.”

She stared. “Looks okay,” she pronounced loudly. She added, “Don’t change our signs. I made that. My boss loved it!”

I craned my neck, looking for Roger. “Sorry. Just trying to help. I can get my book on punctuation. . . .”

Maybe I imagined it, but I think she had a spasm. She choked out, “No. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Again.”

Whew! I wasn’t asked to leave.

Right then, Roger appeared, ready to head home. Walking out of the store, I noted signs poised above sale racks probably created by the same clerk. Each sported misplaced or missing apostrophes.

20% off These Sweater’s!
Bath Towel Set’s On Sale!
Saving’s on Silverware Set’s!

I struggled not to whip out my marker.

On the drive home, flocks of blackbirds perched on overhead lines like apostrophes about to fly off en masse. Then I spied a store sign:

Samwitche’s on sale $2 each

—Ham and Cheese’s, Hotdog’s, Tuna Salad’s—
Choose Your’s.

I started to rant when Roger said to me, “Just close your eyes, dear. Rest. We’ll be home soon.”


JoAnn Reno Wray operates, EpistleWorks Creations, in Broken Arrow, OK offering writing, editing, and graphic art. Her blog, Epistles from the Heart, mixes humor and inspiration. With 3000+ items published in periodicals both in print and the web, her stories have also appeared in over twelve books. JoAnn has taught at conferences, written a variety of articles, as well as technical manuals, business columns, edited small newspapers, and done book editing and ghost writing.

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