Help Wanted: Apostrophe

Our ancient, yet ever-evolving organization is looking for a dependable apostrophe (’) who understands its place in our structure and improves the quality of communication for all English speakers. You will be successful in this position if you are eager to step in and help where needed but will not try to force yourself where you don’t belong.

Key responsibilities:

  • DO fill in for missing letters and numbers – Sometimes letters and numbers need vacations. Your job is to hold their place while they are away.  Examples: isn’t (is not), ‘til (until), int’l (international); ‘60s (1960s), ‘40s (1940s).
  • DO show ownership – Saying “belongs to” every time is a time-wasting, frivolous use of resources. Therefore, you will often work with “s” to end words to show possession. Examples: Mary’s shoe (the shoe that belongs to Mary), the dog’s bone (the bone that belongs to the dog). Please note: To further increase workplace efficiency, you will work alone if the word already ends in “s.” Examples: Chris’ beer (the beer that belongs to Chris), the giraffes’ necks (the necks that belong to the giraffes).

Conditions for dismissal:

  • DON’T indicate plurals – Words are very sensitive. If you try to force yourself into the middle of a perfectly good plural word, they feel like you are trying to stab them in the gut. Examples: forks, musicians, hedgehogs. These words are complete, so don’t try to take the place of something that isn’t missing.
  • DON’T show ownership in possessive pronouns – Our staff of personal possessive pronouns (yours, his, ours, etc.) are all highly educated and can do their jobs by themselves. Like plurals, they are complete words and have a low tolerance for pain.

To apply for this position: Please submit your résumé and a cover letter that indicates which of the following sentences use(s) apostrophes correctly:

a)      I understand the do’s and don’ts of this job.
b)      Mary’s Bloody Mary’s are the best in town.
c)      It wasn’t ‘til the ‘90s that CDs became popular.
d)      Parking’s available to customer’s only.
e)      That sheet music from the 1700’s isn’t your’s, is it?

Palate vs. Palette vs. Pallet

Have you ever eaten food that pleases the palette? The answer is “no,” unless you’re talking about paint made from chocolate and spaghetti sauce. But palette and palate are very commonly mixed up… and then there’s pallet. So here’s a quick rundown on these confusing homophones and how to remember which is which.

  • The palate is the roof of your mouth, and refers to your sense of taste. So, a roasted marshmallow might be pleasing to your palate, but if it’s flaming, it will burn your palate. >>> Remember that “pal ate” and food/taste are a natural association.
  • palette refers to the range of color a painter uses as well as the actual board that holds the paint. Claude Monet held a palette of paint and created Woman With a Parasol in a palette of blues and greens. >>> Remember that words ending in -ette are often of French origin. Think of an image of a French artist standing at an easel and holding a palette and paintbrush.
  • pallet is a flat wood or plastic platform used at warehouses to hold items for moving and storage. A smaller version can be used for holding fruits and vegetables. Today I put 27 boxes on a pallet and shrinkwrapped it. Then, I picked a pallet-full of strawberries. >>> Remember that pallet is an inelegant spelling, for an inelegant, industrial thing.

Here are a few more examples:

  • My pal ate some chocolate and his palate was pleased.
  • Marie Antoinette held a palette and painted a silhouette of a cigarette.
  • If you take a mallet to that pallet, your wallet will pay.

Now, I’m going to go eat a pallet full of palettes, which certainly won’t please my palate.