Apostrophes are not difficult to manage. Apostrophes are used for ONLY two things: contractions (shortening two words into one) and possessives (showing ownership in some way.) Contractions are easy; most contraction errors are typos.
One of my favorite activities in teaching both third and fifth grades was an exit question that they had to answer correctly in order to leave for home: “What are the only two times to use apostrophes?” If they couldn’t answer “possessives and contractions,” they went to the end of the line. By the time they heard the other 25 students say it, they could usually get out.
Possessives are not easy, but they are simple. The part of the word to the left of the apostrophe tells what owns what follows. Example: birds’ nests. More than one bird, more than one nest. Example #2: bird’s nest. One bird, one nest. You can even have birds’ nest, if you are talking about birds sharing one nest. Think of the apostrophe as the word “own.”
The problem is rarely possessives. The problem is that people confuse plurals with possessives. If asked, most people know that plural means more than one. So an apostrophe is NOT needed to show a plural.
We don’t have picture’s or friend’s or trip’s. We have pictures and friends and trips. We don’t have dog’s and cat’s, but instead we have dogs and cats. We don’t eat out with the Miller’s. We eat out with the Millers.
So—how do we fix the world of apostrophes? I have no idea. When I’m asked to edit a document, I can help that particular person, so I guess it’s just one person at a time.
At our church, there was once a woman who would give Steve a note pointing out any grammatical errors he’d made in his sermon. At another church, a woman would circle errors in the bulletin and give them to the secretary. Notice these are all women. Even when men notice such, they don’t often care enough to do anything about it.
So I, too, try to let it go. In the words of the popular “Frozen” song, I’ll “Let it go!”
After all, none of this has eternal significance. “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2.)