Its time to move past apostrophes.
Posted on 2021 February 26
Its time to move past apostrophes. They dont provide any real context to written speech.
It won’t be confusing, since apostrophes aren’t voiced in speech. Understanding the lack of apostrophes in written speech will be easy, since the context can be reviewed without asking the speaker to repeat themself.
’s is tricky. It can mean 2 things at once:
- Possession, ex: Rob’s computer.
- is, ex: Rob’s using the computer / Rob is using the computer
- has, ex: Rob’s used the computer / Rob has used the computer.
However, removing it can imply plural of something, ex: Robs using the computer (How many Robs?).
I’m willing to suspend my annoyance for this one, but I think we should try it out either way.
However, keep in mind that since it is vague and context-driven in every scenario, it would equally mean the same things if the apostrophe is removed in every context. Except in the case where pluralization is ambiguous, but context will drive that.
Don’t write monkey’s again if you mean monkies. Any time there’s an ambiguous pluralization, just slap an S directly on the end. It’ll be fine. Your reader is smart enough to understand through context.
Contractions with Word Collisions
Any time there’s a conflict in understanding, the surrounding context can determine the speaker’s intent. This is already the norm for many words, and words with collisions (ex: I’ve -> I have (done - verb) or I have (something - possession).
I would or I had?
Context clears this up, since there are no apostrophes in speech.
It’s or its.
These are pronounced the same way, and despite all the reddit comments and tweets about it being a problem, the context completely drives the existence of this contraction. There is no confusion in speech, and there will be no confusion in writing either.
It is something vs it possesses something is pretty obvious in context.
Let’s or lets
“This gamer keyboard lets me score sick trick shots.”
“Let’s go.” vs “Let us go.” (Depending on context, these don’t even mean the same thing.)
We’re vs were
“Were here.” “We were here.”
“Were here” isn’t a valid sentence since the subject is dropped super ambiguously, regardless the sentences are pronounced the same. The apostrophe does nothing.
Will not -> won’t -> wont.
Using “wont” as a synonym for habit or routine is fun to do, but is not really used enough to be confusing. Also one usage is a noun.
Contractions without Collisions
Removing the apostrophe would create net-new words, preventing any kind of confusion.
I have -> I’ve -> ive
I am -> I’m -> im
That is / that was -> That’s -> thats
This is already understood through context. The apostrophe does nothing.
They are -> they’re -> theyre
Also: their / there. This is already understood through context. The apostrophe does nothing than give the ‘a’ in are a subtle nod.
Are not -> aren’t -> arent.
We have a lot of words that are said the same way but spelled differently, like there/theyre/their. Also there are many words spelled the same way but said differently, ex: lead (metal) / lead (what a leader does).
Context will drive understanding when apostrophes are missing.
Apostrophes slow down typists and dont add anything useful anymore. I would love to remove the apostrophe from my keyboard and have less finger motions to hit.