Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Accursed Apostrophe

Yes, I am one of those people who knows the difference between it's and its. I'm a writer and an editor, so I'd better know how to use 'em correctly. Most of the time, I simply go along and do what I have to do, but there are times, when I am in editing or proofing mode, when I become hypervigilant and (dare I say) hypersensitive to apostrophes, commas, semicolons, quotemarks, and other matters of punctuation.

This, for better or worse, is one of those times. Not only am I carving my way through a safety manual, pen a-twitching (although since I'm working on an electronic file, perhaps pen isn't the right word here), I am also editing/critiquing two-and-a-half manuscripts or parts thereof, and making a last past (which feels more like a last gasp) through an ARC of Leaden Skies, the next book in my Silver Rush historical mystery series. (ARC, for those who don't know, stands for "Advance Readers Copy" otherwise known as an "Uncorrected Proof.")

For some reason, misused and abused apostrophes are raining down upon me in nearly all these projects. Including, alas, my own.

The problem with Leaden Skies came about from turning apostrophes in my electronic file from "curly" to "straight" (in Word parlance). I have more than a few characters who, in dialogue, drop parts of words, as in "Don't let 'er get away with misusin' and abusin' those bits of punctuation, 'cause it ain't right." Where a backwards apostrophe leads the way, disaster struck, in the form of some mysterious electronic plague that automatically made what should have been backwards NOT.

In looking around, I find there are others sensitive to this, my current obsession. However, most other folks who remark upon the sad and sorry apostrophical fate are typesetters or fans of typography. Such as here, on John D. Berry's Easily Amused blog. And here, on the I love typography blog (which also has, I see, a post titled "Who Shot the Serif?" . . . I think I've found a new blog to follow).
It's nice to know I'm not alone.


Bob Sanchez said...

Ann, allow me to commiserate. I spent many hours proofing my own novel until I was picking nits in my sleep. Only at the last minute did I realize that '80s and '90s require right single quotes and not left single quotes.

Sigh. You'd think the fate of the world hung in the balance

Bob Sanchez

Ann Parker said...

Hello Bob,
I know. It's absolutely crazy how consuming this all becomes.

I think I've learned more about punctuation rules in the past 10 years of writing mysteries than in the previous 20 years doing only science and technical writing/editing.