You see it everywhere: the grocers’ apostrophe. It got its moniker from grocers who would advertise “banana’s”, “apple’s” and “potato’s” for sale in their shops. Of course, it’s not only limited to items of fresh produce (and my apologies to the many grocers who know how to use an apostrophe properly).
Recently I saw it on a sign (produced by local government no less) telling people to keep their dogs out of marked “area’s”. While this erroneously placed apostrophe commonly appears with nouns, I’ve also seen it used with verbs, e.g. this shop open’s at 9am.
What it comes down to is a misunderstanding of the use of an apostrophe. In most instances, apostrophes are used to indicate possession or to indicate a contraction.
e.g. Lucy’s ball is flat.
e.g. I’m not well today.
e.g. The banana’s skin is yellow.
The apostrophe isn’t used for making a plural.
So those “banana’s”, “apple’s” and “potato’s” should be bananas, apples and potatoes.
The “area’s” should be areas. The only time it would be area’s is if something belongs to that area. Perhaps a bin or a shelter.
Whenever I see an apostrophe used incorrectly in such a way, I tend to ask the something’s what? Nine times out of ten, it won’t make sense. Ten times out of ten, people will roll their eyes.
Another instance where the grocers’ apostrophe rears its ugly head is when pluralising a CD or DVD. Often, an apostrophe is added between the last D and the s, forming CD’s and DVD’s.
But don’t be fooled. The grocers’ apostrophe is a sneaky thing.
CDs and DVDs is the correct way. Save space, save face. Don’t use unnecessary apostrophes (note: no apostrophe in front of the s).
What are some of the best examples of grocers’ apostrophes that you’ve seen? Leave a response in the comments below.
Rule of Thumb
Plurals don’t need an apostrophe before the s. Only use an apostrophe when it indicates possession or a missing letter (contraction).