Apostrophes. They're boogers, aren't they? I happen to love them and love making sure they're in the proper places, but that's because I'm a visual learner and I see instantly when they're misplaced. But a lot of very smart people have trouble with them, just as I have trouble with things that are a cinch for them.
Still, I'm here to help. So let me take a minute today (because a minute is about all I've got) to point out one of the most annoying and egregious misuses of apostrophes: employing an apostrophe to indicate a plural.
I referred to this tendency tangentially the other day when harrumphing about the city in England that's decided to stop using the apostrophe. But, much as I abhor this dumbing down of the language, for some reason I much prefer the absence of apostrophes to their extravagant overuse in all kinds of random
WHY is this so hard? When adding an "s" to indicate a plural, it gets glued onto the word with no apostrophe. If you add an apostrophe and an "s" to a word, you're indicating either a contraction (My wife's not exactly a grammarian) or a possessive (My wife's greatest weakness is not using apostrophes correctly). But when creating a simple, non-possessive plural, please do not let the pesky thing sneak in there. You're not selling "apple's" and your daughter is not chasing the "boy's." At least I hope not.
Here's something odd I've noticed: two of the most common errors in this regard are with the words "mothers" and "doctors." The latter is rather easy for me to analyze, because we so often use the term "doctor's orders" (correct) that we automatically want to write "two of the doctor's said..." (incorrect). With "mothers" it's a bit harder for me to figure out, but it could have something to do with the annual emphasis on Mother's Day, sometimes written as Mothers' Day, either of which could be considered correct even though the first is standard. What is not correct is "All mother's want to be remembered on Mother's Day."
Please, friends...both mothers and doctors are strong enough not to need to be propped up with an apostrophe.
Unless they're very...possessive :-)