Mighty Red Pen

December 10, 2008

’Tis the season

Filed under: Apostrophe catastrophe,Perilous punctuation — mighty red pen @ 8:27 pm
Tags: , ,

Hat tip to K-Bro, who sent along this little tidbit spotted at her workplace. Oh, where to begin?


There’s a general problem with the awkwardness of the sentence Join us in this celebration by having our own potluck and there is the problem with Participation in the potluck are for those who bring a dish instead of Participation in the potluck is for those who bring a dish.

But K-Bro was quick to point out the odd ellipsis in the middle of the first sentence, asking “Is that even right?” (The answer to that is no, an ellipsis has three dots, not unlimited dots, and also I would agree that this isn’t the best placement for it but I think it’s a sort of design choice rather than a punctuational one.)

But, oh, the misplaced apostrophe in ’Tis. MRP is sensing a trend that doesn’t fill me holiday cheer. Check out this mailing I received just the day before I got K-Bro’s missive:


Okay, here’s the deal. ’Tis is an abbreviation for it is. As such, the apostrophe replaces the missing letter, which is i. Therefore, the apostrophe goes before tis. Not after it. Where it makes no sense. So stop doing that.



  1. Oh no. I wish you hadn’t pointed this out to me. I am going to notice every Tis’ this season, and it’s going to drive me crazy. It’s your fault.

    Comment by Christopher — December 11, 2008 @ 4:00 am | Reply

  2. Ha! Well, what do you think the point of MRP is? Misery loves company!

    Comment by mighty red pen — December 11, 2008 @ 8:54 am | Reply

  3. People don’t think about what words mean when they get wrapped up in the feeling those words are meant to evoke. “‘Tis”, for example, doesn’t mean “it is” anymore. Instead, it means, “Look, it’s almost Christmas. That’s why we’re using cute words like this.”

    Comment by David — December 11, 2008 @ 10:38 am | Reply

  4. Maybe. I still don’t think that gives them license to just put apostrophes in any old spot they please.

    Comment by mighty red pen — December 11, 2008 @ 10:44 am | Reply

  5. God forfend that ever I should support such a position! No, people have no license to be messy with their language during any season. Most particularly not during the season that celebrates the birth of someone who warned us that omitting “jots or tittles” was a bad thing.

    Comment by David — December 11, 2008 @ 10:48 am | Reply

  6. I can’t really see exactly how many dots are in that ellipsis, but I did happen to be look up information on ellipses yesterday. It turns out that in Chinese, the ellipsis is actually six dots, while in Japanese, it’s either three dots or six dots or… apparently some random variation thereof. Maybe the writer reads a lot of manga.

    Comment by tk. — December 11, 2008 @ 12:22 pm | Reply

  7. Your “‘Tis” appears to use an open single quote rather than an apostrophe (close single quote). A work-around with Smart Quotes is to type the single quote twice and then delete the first one.

    Comment by DanL — December 12, 2008 @ 11:47 am | Reply

  8. Try again: ‘Tis

    Comment by DanL — December 12, 2008 @ 11:48 am | Reply

  9. Alternative work-around: Never start a word with an apostrophe if you don’t know how the word-processing software will handle it.

    Comment by DanL — December 12, 2008 @ 11:53 am | Reply

  10. Thanks DanL, that didn’t actually work but thanks for the reminder that I needed to fix that. I figured out another work-around.

    Comment by mighty red pen — December 12, 2008 @ 11:53 am | Reply

  11. More tries: (1) ’Tis (2) ’Tis (3) ´Tis

    Comment by DanL — December 12, 2008 @ 12:00 pm | Reply

  12. Try (1): Copy and paste from a Microsoft Word document where Smart Quotes can be fooled as originally suggested. Try (2): While holding down the Alt key, use the number pad to enter 0146. Try (3): Same as 2 but using 0180.

    Comment by DanL — December 12, 2008 @ 12:05 pm | Reply

  13. ‘Tis more manglings courtesy of the professional writers and editors at Yahoo!:
    and here:

    These are mistakes made by paid professionals representing one of the largest Internet companies in the world. Gotta love ’em.

    Comment by Laura — December 18, 2008 @ 5:41 pm | Reply

  14. It seems nowadays that most people consider apostrophes to be decorative. Sigh.

    Comment by cookiezim — December 18, 2008 @ 10:38 pm | Reply

  15. […] Perilous punctuation — mighty red pen @ 2:26 pm K-Bro, who wrote a while back to share a flyer from an office holiday potluck, wrote back with an update. She points out for our information that there were two turkeys and two […]

    Pingback by Now we’re cookin’ « Mighty Red Pen — January 3, 2009 @ 2:27 pm | Reply

  16. To be clear – as it is confusing with non-serif type here – that the ‘ (apostrophe mark) curves out AWAY FROM the tis – (and NOT inward like a single quotation mark)??? (like when used in ” it’s ” )
    Help! Can any refence this in any common literature??

    Comment by Captain — February 1, 2014 @ 9:25 pm | Reply

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