It could be because I began my professional life as a primary school teacher; because, when after a decade, I became a media education consultant; because another decade on I worked in an editorial department with a ‘proper’ editor; because I still write for a living; or because I am closer to 60 than 50 so have an excuse for getting annoyed at such things… but doesn’t anyone understand apostrophes any more?
The real estate pages are my favourite sections of newspapers, especially the lift-outs. I love looking at the property advertisements and then following the progress over weeks until a property sells at auction, gets listed for a price or the ad disappears altogether. I have even been known to spot a property and follow it online as well. And this is all just for fun, though I like to call it researching the market, which is similar to what I tell my accountant about buying newspapers. What it also means is that newspapers tend to pile up around me!
Keeping things very simple, the apostrophe is something to signify ownership, like the home’s appeal, or that a letter has been omitted, as with Don’t miss your chance, but there are obviously a huge number of people who missed those lessons at school or just never actually got it in the first place and so go through life just guessing. It leads to other word confusion like its and it’s and your and you’re, all of which are popular words in property ads.
Recently, however, I read an advertisement that put all thoughts of apostrophe misuse out of my mind as it urged buyers: Don’t snooze and lose as this area is on the move and will be a classic case of “should of, could of, and would of”.
The question is, was the writer taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to the way so many speak these words? What do you think? Whether I am showing my age—or it’s the past years of teaching, training and public speaking—I just can’t read ‘should have, could have and would have’ written that way.
After all, how will those people who say ‘of’ when it is ‘have’ they mean ever know the truth if they see it incorrectly in print.
Writers of real estate advertisements take on a great deal more responsibility than they may realise!