The nearly ubiquitous word processing program, Microsoft Word, has perhaps been a net positive for society. But it has its failings, including one so deleterious that it is rotting away the core of punctuation — and in turn, society — as we know it.
As a default, Word uses Smart Quotes, which means that when you press the quotemarks key at the start of the sentence, the quotemarks will curve slightly in an inclusive direction, like so:
That’s fine, as is the single quotemark, so that the following sentence appears as such:
Unfortunately, Smart Quotes isn’t so smart that it knows when you’re using the apostrophe as an apostrophe, rather than as a single quotemark.
So, for example, while Smart Quotes knows to curve the apostrophe in “it’s” in the proper way (by the way, don’t get me started on people who don’t know when to say “it’s” or “its”), it doesn’t know that when you are using an apostrophe at the beginning of a word …
… or number …
… the punctuation should be curved the opposite way.
That means that if the writer doesn’t manually make the correction, it will be wrong.
And if no one in an organization knows to make the correction … well, you end up with the following:
Your apostrophe is backward.
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) June 4, 2018
Consequently, you know that society is truly diseased when a year can pass and the same mistake repeats itself.
Your apostrophe is still backward. Now I think you're just being stubborn. Please consider the example you're setting for the kids.
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) May 24, 2019
The goal of writing is comprehension, and I understand that the backward apostrophe doesn’t prevent comprehension. But writing is also an art, buttressed by the use of grammar and punctuation.
That includes knowing when to break the rules for effect. It would be one thing if MLB were making some kind of ironic statement by using the backward apostrophe, but I don’t think the most generous interpretation would allow for that.
It’s enough that grammar, spelling and punctuation are being abandoned in the rising forum of text messaging. I don’t support its demise, but that train has left the station. However, if we’re going to pretend that something like the backward apostrophe doesn’t merit notice, in something as large as an official MLB logo, then we’re one step closer to losing the art.
MLB is hardly the only sinner with the backward apostrophe. I see it in various pieces of writing almost on a daily basis. Everyone needs to take heed. But it pains me that the sport that I love is so careless in contributing to this erosion.