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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Apostrophes Gone Wild!-Plus: The Three Little Ps

~*~Disclaimer:I'm not an expert editor. I love eBooks--fourteen of my own books are eBooks~*~
The number of errors in eBooks is increasing daily. Once upon a time I rarely found a typo, wrong word usage, or a punctuation error. The eBook novel I'm reading now is filled with errors. I began to make note of them but gave up--the book is long and my list became out of control.
I decided to concentrate on very common, all too frequent errors, to the point they seem to be commonplace and completely accepted by editors and the general public. Someone please tell me our writing skills have not degraded so much.

I. Apostrophes in Contractions

If the writer is using "curly apostrophes," then the apostrophe has a tail. The tail is turned to the right or to the left. When single apostrophes are used to enclose a word or quote, the first has the tail turned to the right; the second has the tail turned to the left.

In contractions, though, the single apostrophe is always...ALWAYS...turned to the left--even if it appears at the beginning of the word. Why, then, are so many authors and editors allowing apostrophes at the beginning of a contraction to turn to the right--as though it wants to enclose the word?
The rule is that no matter where the apostrophe occurs in a contraction, the tail should be turned to the left.

I have seen this rule broken on publisher's websites, especially around Christmas when the word 'tis was used frequently. It appeared over and over on TV in commercials.

Common contractions with the apostrophe at the beginning are:
'tis, 'til, 'fore, etc.    In each instance, the tail of the apostrophe should be turned to the....LEFT. The program may use the wrong one, but you can change it.

II. The Three Little Ps-Peek, Peak, Pique

In truth, these words are bothersome, for even I admit using them wrong when in a hurry. However, if I use one in a manuscript, I should take time to write the one that fits the sentence.
Peek: to glance or look quickly
"She peeked around the edge of the curtain."

Peak: a pointed end or top; to reach a highest point or summit; the highest or utmost point of anything.
"The house had a peaked roof."
"The mountain had the highest peak of all."
"Production peaked at an all-time high."

Pique: a fit of displeasure; ruffled pride; to arouse or provoke
"In a pique, she stomped away from him."
"Trying to hold her head high, she was piqued that she did not win the championship."
"Her interest piqued, she sat down across from the handsome man."

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas


Bob Couch said...

I suspect the misguided apostrophe is more a function of software than anything else.
In current editions of Microsoft Word, for example, an apostrophe at the beginning of a word not only has the tail pointing to the right, the little tadpole is swimming DOWN.

Celia Yeary said...

Yes, it is a function of the software, so the author should put it in manually--it's easy--back up one space to delete the space betwee the words, then add the apostrophe inbetween, space and it's correct.
I like the straight quotes, myself...just saves time and a lot of errors.

VenusBookluvr said...

I have to point out that this is a problem in print books as well not just in the eBook industry.

Niki Turner said...

I'm SO tempted to go through every book I read anymore, mark all the mistakes, and send it back to the publisher for an edit.
I have fewer issues with the apostrophe challenges than with homophones used incorrectly. Eep.
What happened to editing???

Sidne said...

Can't believe i saw this post. This topic came up a few days ago while I was sitting in a library. A group of teens was debating the subject.

Celia Yeary said...

True, Venus. But why? Editors should know better. And if an author is self-published, then she/he might want to work a little harder on getting everything correct. Do you think our society is just becoming lazy? Or maybe not educated enough? I wish I knew.

Celia Yeary said...

NIKI--it's very annoying to me. I don't like to be engrossed in a story and find error after error, causing me to stop and mentally correct it.

Celia Yeary said...

Sidne--that's actually heartening, isn't it? Teens discussing errors in books? I love it!!

Jillian said...

I've tried to fix these and am with you, give them to me straight, I can take it! Lol.

I recently read four ebooks and three of the four said the hero had taught abs. I wondered what they were taught. I'd much rather have a hero with taut abs, wouldn't you?

Mona Risk said...

Good point Celia, amazing how we do errors but the mistakes of others jump at us while reading. I gave up notifying the authors. Often wondering if they'll be upset or grateful.

Barb Han said...

Thanks for the is frustrating when the computer decides to give you a misguided apostrophe...always have to back up and redo.

Lilly Gayle said...

Great post. I agree. It seems more and more than not only is inappropriate use of the written word becoming acceptable, but the spoken word as well. If I hear one more "professional" say something like, "I seen that on TV last night" then I think I'm going to scream!

My daughters are college graduates and though I assume they were taught the proper use of a comma, the teachers didn't seem that concerned if they were mis used or not used at all. Any more, it seems commas are used based on the way the reader pauses when he/she talks.

It drives me crazy.

Thanks for the opportunity to rant. lol!

Vonnie Davis said...

Rules are bent everywhere. I think we live in a "so what?" society. We also live in a hurried society that wants immediacy. Yet some goofs are embarassing. I have a published book with twins 3 years apart in age. True! Initially, my hero was 33. Partway through the book I thought if I changed his age to 29, then the big 30th birthday party for him and his twin sister could bring my heroine back for the reconcillation moment. I carefully went through the chapters already completed and changed all references to HIS age and for some inane reason forgot I'd made mention of the 33-year old single mother. I edited it. My agent edited it. My editor also. I read the galley. None of us saw that error. Imagine my horror when I had book in hand and the mistake jumped out and slapped me! No one's brought it to my attention yet, but you KNOW they will. When reading the final galley for "Those Violet Eyes," I was horrified to see my hero's Humvee in Iraq was exploded by an IUD and not an IED. Can I claim a senior moment on that error? I'd never caught it and neither did my editor. I quickly emailed RJ who took pity on me and changed the final galley. Of course she said her department had a good laugh over that powerful birth control device...blushes. So I know all too well how errors happen. Our eyes see what our mind expects to be there.

Celia Yeary said...

Jillian--"taught abs?"--this is hysterical. Yes, I much prefer "taut" abs. Yes, the apostrophes must be fixed manually--I've heard more than one person say, yes, but that takes too much time...or some such thing.

Celia Yeary said...

Mona--No, I don't notify authors, either. I really fear hurting their feelings or making them feel defensive. I just grip to other people!

Celia Yeary said...

Barb--back and redo.Yes, that's what it takes. You'd be surprised how many can't figure that out.

Celia Yeary said...

Lilly--now you've hit my weakness--commas. I think I have the rules down and an editor changes it. To me, commas can be the most difficult to get exactly right. Yes, I want to put them in like I talk. But that has helped teach me not to do that. I am getting better.
If I hear one more news announcer or politician say, "Between him and I," or "To him and I," etc. I will definitely scream.
Thanks for your input.

Tina Pinson said...

My curiosity was piqued by your title so came in to take a peek during my peak writing time. So you should feel very blessed.


Gotta love those curly apostrophes. but I especially love those writers who don't add one at all. No quotes either. How does that get by?

Celia Yeary said...

Oh, Vonnie--you made me laugh. I do understand. I've read novels in which the heroine began as a bright blonde, and later on she was a raven-haired beauty.
But you're right about not catching our own errors, and yes I can overlook my own error ten times, and one person reads it and points it out. I complain about this at home when my husband and I both are reading our Kindles, and he claims I see those only because I am a writer. That might possibly be true.
I agree completely that our society is a "so what" country--and it's getting us in big time trouble. And that we're all in a hurry. Too bad in some cases--we certainly need to slow down enough to think things through.

Celia Yeary said...

Tina! You're so clever--thanks for that little writing bit. Love it.
I'm reading a "novel" right now that is actually written in free-style poetry, without one kind of punctuation. A writer can get by with that only if he/she is eccentric enough, the story is fairly good, and the editor/publisher thinks it's really cool. No, it's not. I hate it.

Debra Parmley said...

I think that when we go over a manuscript many times revising and then editing it, it can become hard to see the mistakes because we've looked at it too often.

From back when I sold newspaper advertising I know this is true. The graphic designer and I would check over an ad and then I would ask a third person to please give it a look in case we missed something.

That said, a manuscript which is riddled with errors is very hard to enjoy reading.

Vonnie, I understand. It's that moment of why didn't I catch that? And so right, there will be a reader or readers who will catch it right off and then the sinking feeling which follows from having missed something.

I wish we'd all just go to straight quotes everywhere. Seems like that would be easier on the eyes.

Debra Parmley said...

I think that when we go over a manuscript many times revising and then editing it, it can become hard to see the mistakes because we've looked at it too often.

From back when I sold newspaper advertising I know this is true. The graphic designer and I would check over an ad and then I would ask a third person to please give it a look in case we missed something.

That said, a manuscript which is riddled with errors is very hard to enjoy reading.

Vonnie, I understand. It's that moment of why didn't I catch that? And so right, there will be a reader or readers who will catch it right off and then the sinking feeling which follows from having missed something.

I wish we'd all just go to straight quotes everywhere. Seems like that would be easier on the eyes.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Great, Celia. Isn't it something when every time you see something that annoys you, it stops you from reading? When I was a Camp Fire leader I couldn't stand it when the girls said, "Me and Sally." I was taught me always came second. I see it and hear it more all the time and that chalk along the blackboard moment always happens.

Thanks for the great post. I need to figure out how to get rid of all curly quotes. I can do an entire ms, but when I go back in they are curly where I add new ones. I hope it isn't too difficult to figure out because it sure slows me down having to fix them all the time. I must put that on my 'to do' list. :)

Celia Yeary said...

Debra--so true. Every word. One editor I've had said to read it through, then change the font and read it again. That was pretty amazing. I always found something I hadn't seen before. Also, I learned on my own to send the ms to my Kindle and read it. very enlighting! Try it.
Thanks so much for you thoughts.

Celia Yeary said...

Paisley--I understand and compeltely agree. About removing the curly's been a while but I do know how to do it. If you need help with the formatting sheets, let me know and I'll try my best to help you.
Good luck!

Linda Swift said...

What an enlightening blog today. And yes, our mind sees what our eye overlooks so it's hard to edit our own work. No one has mentioned the current use of "your" for "you're" so I assume this has become common practice while I wasn't paying attention. Just a omitting "of" after "couple" as in "a couple drinks" which in this example changed the meaning!

Monya Clayton said...

Celia and girls - one of the favourite (no, not misspelled, I'm Aussie and we still use English English!) gripes at the monthly meetings of our local writers group is the mess being made of the language. We're all sixty plus so we know better!

Linda, the "your" & "you're" is typical. It's scary to think it's become almost normal use! Then, here, there's another apostrophe problem - people who shove one in front of any 's' ending a word, even when the word is simply a plural. The maddening part is to see it in advertisements, in newspapers and in other situations where the writer should be more aware.

I think the root of the trouble is that grammar and spelling are not taught (not "taut"!) correctly anymore. And even more frightening, the fact that we have a second generation whose grammar and spelling are suspect because it's the teachers who make the mistakes and pass them on.

Certainly English is a flexible language. That's always been one of its great strengths. But it doesn't need to be pushed downhill so quickly.

Speaking of "peek" and "peak", the words reminded me of a single mistake in an otherwise charming story by a senior journalist in a large newspaper. The word she used was "peel", and the phrase was "a peEl of laughter". Arrgghh. It's a "peAl" when it's laughter, screamed I.

We must keep screaming. Save the language!

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hey Celia,

I get disturbed by the wrong-tailed apostrophes as well. For me it comes out wrong on the shortened version of them as 'em. invariably the tail is turned the wrong way, as it is on 'tis and 'til.

It certainly isn't easy to catch all the errors in a book, and these days of instant publishing don't seem to pay much homeage to good editing. I find it hard to find errors in my own work. I get seduced by the words...

Great post!


Lynne Marshall said...

Celia - my first book with the Wild Rose Press had an editor who went through the entire mss and changed the direction of the apostrophes. I really appreciated her doing that. My second book with WRP - I don't recall the editor focusing on that at all. I will now go through my third book with WRP with a fine toothed comb to make sure these tiny errors have been taken care of. I personally (as the author) should make sure this is right.
I once gave a self-pubbed e-book (which was pretty good overall) a lower star review because the quotation marks were too often turned the wrong way. It bothered me enough that it pulled me out of the story.
I honestly don't think I'd notice which way the apotrophe was pointing in a book, though. Things should be done correctly, though, and if people are accepting pay as editors, they should catch such things - though the author needs to go over her revisions carefully, too.
Said more than I meant to!

Celia Yeary said...

Linda--I know how much you abhor leaving the "of" our of "a couple of drinks." Now that you've mentioned it, I see it often. The other you mentioned--yes, we see that, too. What is this world coming to?

Celia Yeary said...

Monya--I'm laughing. And I love your way of writing. So simple and very correct, and very easy to read.
Peel? Yes, that is very funny! And unforgivable.
I do understand that English is an evolving language, but why?Do other nations see their language changing so rapidly and cruelly, if not stupidly. Many of us are "of a certain age," that is, over 60. I do think we see the world through differnt glasses.

Celia Yeary said...

Maggie--most, if not all, cannot see the errors in our own work. That's why, at least, change the entire ms to a different font, or best of all, move it to your Kindle. I think that's the very best use of a help us find our own errors. You read your own work like it's a book...and you will see the errors.

Celia Yeary said...

Lynne--I have three books with The Wild Rose Press. After my second, I started buying other TWRP books and saw the apostrophe turned the wrong way. I emailed the owner, R., and explained this. She pretty much ignored me saying it was "a function of the software." But I was compelled to write again, and she did say she'd see that all her editors knew the correct way. Still...I don't know.
Editors, themselves, are often young and simply don't grasp the correct way of some things. I also think editors from any publisher more often concentrate on flow, sequence, POV, etc. than punctuation. The way of our language is definitely changing.
Thanks so much for your comment.

Paula Martin said...

I suspect we could all go on for a long time about grammar, punctuation, spelling (etc) errors we've seen in books. I cringe at the use of apostrophes for plurals, their/they're/there errors, and your/you're. Could 'of' is another one I hate instead of could 'have'. I recently read an e-book where the author frequently wrote 'he was stood' or 'she was sat' (and winced every time). As for lie and lay, well, there have been some misuses of those that have made me laugh!

Calisa Rhose said...

Great post, Celia. Thanks for the clarification. The 'backward' apostrophe just came to my attention recently as something to pay notice to.

Celia Yeary said...

Oh, Paula--it's awful, isn't it? You'd think someone who called herself and editor would know these things. That's what they're for--right? They don't know anymore than I do. Very sad and disheartning.

Celia Yeary said...

Calisa--good! You're among those who know the right way. Good for you. I know it's a tedious, boring thing...but don't we want our books to be good?
I fear too many authors are just in too much of the rush.
Thanks so much for coming by.