Christian Science Monitor: How to be possessive about apostrophes
An online primer explains the uses and abuses of a helpful punctuation mark. ...
... I was a bit crestfallen, though, at his final bit of advice, especially since it appears in VERY BIG TYPE: "When in doubt, leave it out." That rule will probably keep some people from writing "kitten's" or "goat's." But it will probably also encourage them to write things like "teachers college," where I would fight a rear-guard action on behalf of an apostrophe. "Teachers' college" seems to me a straightforward case of plural possessive. If it's not "their" (the teachers') college, whose is it? The counterargument is that the college doesn't belong to teachers but rather produces them. So call it a teacher college!
In the Oatmeal spirit of "just enough" grammar, here are some other rules to use as editorial first aid until a professional can make it to the scene:
1. If you aren't absolutely sure about who and whom, go with who. Use of whom in the wrong place looks much worse than failure to use whom in the right place.
2. Forgo and forego are both real words; they mean "give up" and "precede," respectively. But "forego" (as distinct from foregoing) is almost always wrong. "I will forego you out of the room"? Yeah. Right.
3. Both affect and effect can be either a noun or a verb. But you could probably live your whole life without using effect as a verb or affect as a noun. Many people do – and quite happily, too.
My first extended experience with a desktop computer was back in 1984 when I was permitted to come in after hours and type my master's thesis. Was I ever thankful. I would produce one draft and give it to my committee chair. It would come back with comma's added everywhere. I'd make the corrections and send it to the rest of the committee. One of the committee members would send it back with Xs through a bunch of commas. (I think he was the same one that circled paragraphs remarking, "This paragraph reads like it was written by a first generation German immigrant.") After two or three iterations of this, I was beginning to feel a bit like Sisyphus with his boulder. Finally, I convened a committee meeting on the use of commas, explaining I didn't care what the rule was but just wanted somebody to tell me what the rule was.
I'm convinced that spelling and grammar are forms of torture developed by English professionals. It is time for a revolution. Misspellers of the world ... UNTIE!!!