‘Unnecessary’ Quotation Marks And Apostrophe Catastrophes

quote-marksI am passionate about punctuation. And other grammar issues. And spelling, for that matter.

It’s not that I never make mistakes in these areas. I just have specific grammar issues I feel strongly about.

Like the use (or misuse) of a possessive apostrophe, particularly when describing a family’s last name. For instance, it’s not

Welcome to the Smith’s!

It should read instead:

Welcome to the Smiths’!

Or, in an even worse scenario, it’s not:

I like the Smith’s.

In this case an apostrophe isn’t necessary at all. It should simply read:

I like the Smiths.

This issue becomes a daily problem during the holiday season. Many a Christmas card or mailing envelope bears the mark of this scourge. (Now I’ve made all of you paranoid about sending me your card.)

My running theory as to why apostrophe misuse has always bothered me is that my maiden name ends with an apostrophe.

For the first 25 years of life, my last name was Chesebro’. Pronounced “cheese-bro”. The name used to be Chesebrough, but generations ago some genius in my family thought it would be useful to chop off the last three letters and insert an apostrophe instead.

This brought me no small amount of grief when I needed to use my last name in the above scenarios. In my case, “Welcome to the Chesebro’s’” and “I like the Chesebro’s” were actually grammatically correct. What’s an English minor to do?

But all of this doesn’t explain one of my other big grammar pet peeves: unnecessary quotation marks. Although quotation mark misuse can turn out quite (unintentionally) funny:

Don’t even get me started on “there/their/they’re.”

Or my gripe with American grammar rules that tell me I had to put the above period inside the quotation marks, even though that’s completely illogical.

I’ll stop now.

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