In my career as a journalist and scholar I have written about sex – a lot. I have written about religion and politics. I have written about the millennium and the Holocaust. I wrote a 29-part series about AIDS. Just this week, I wrote about the connection between political corruption and language abuse.
Apparently, none of those topics really matter. What really matters to my readers is punctuation and AP style. There was that issue of the Oxford comma, you may remember. Then the semicolon emerged from its cage, seeking attention. The dash made a dash for the front of the stage.
So, desperate for readers and attention, I give you the apostrophe, the possessive and, yes, AP Style. A firestorm of controversy — a cliché I have condemned countless times — has been sparked by the AP’s announcement that it is considering a change in the way we use the possessive apostrophe.
AP reporters write fast, but their Stylebook moves slow. So I will flatter myself into thinking that something I wrote in 2010 foreshadowed this reform movement.
My take on the topic appears on page 82 of my book “The Glamour of Grammar” (which has 11 chapters on punctuation!). This is part of what I had to say:
Language scholars have a word for the sound made by the letter s. They call it a sibilant, which is derived from the Latin word meaning “to hiss.”
Read more here: https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2019/roy-peter-clark-settles-the-possessive-apostrophe-debate-follow-grammarianss-rules/