Friday, March 11, 2011

teach the mail carrier by example

In honor of National Grammar Day, which I missed last Friday, let's revisit one of my favorite grammar-related topics: proper use of the apostrophe.

A reader recently asked me the following question:

If the family name is Morgan, how should we label the mailbox?
1. The Morgan's
2. The Morgans
3. The Morgans'

What's your answer, faithful readers? How much have you learned from my previous posts on this topic?

Let's think about each option.
1. Labeling the mailbox The Morgan's implies that one person with the last name of Morgan lives in the residence, and that person is taking ownership of the mailbox. (Singular Possessive)
2. Listing The Morgans implies that more than one person with the last name of Morgan lives in the residence, and this family is simply labeling an object with their last name. (Plural)
3. Writing The Morgans' implies that more than one person with the last name of Morgan lives in the residence, and this family is showing ownership of the mailbox. (Plural Possessive)

I prefer option 2 because I don't see a mailbox as any different than the myriad other objects one would label. However, one could make a valid argument for option 3.

Option 1 is wrong, assuming more than one person with the same last name lives in the house.

What's the moral of this story? Mail carriers need to learn proper grammar, too. So, do your best to set a good example.

1 comment:

BBH said...

I am no 'grammar queen,' but as a teacher, obvious things like apostrophe placement and their/they're/there type errors really bother me. I also agree with option 2. In fact, when we go on vacation, I usually get our names put on an ornament from the place for a souvenir. I always specify that there is to be NO APOSTROPHE in the name because it irks the bejeesus out of me! I've found that most places DO put the apostrophe in, so it has to be specified.