Question: “Hi Jordan,
I have a few pet peeves about frequent grammar errors I see and would love for you to clear them up for either me or the rest of the world. Here they are.
1. An apostrophe “s” after a last name. Example: “The Smith’s are here. I don’t know what the Smiths own that are here, but the suspense is killing me.
2. A cents symbol after a price that has already been given the decimal point to symbolize cents. Example: .69c (instead of $.69). I don’t know how you divide a penny into 69/100ths but I’d be willing to round up to a full penny when purchasing that pack of gum. 🙂
3. When people talk about going “further” on their drive than me. I believe they went “farther.” Furthermore, I believe they used the wrong word. 🙂
Thanks for making grammar so fun! I love reading your articles! (Marcy Vigren)
Answer: Thanks for writing in, and your kind words, Marcy. Normally I wouldn’t do three questions in one column, but all of these annoy me too, so I think we can knock them out quickly.
Apostrophes do not make words plural (except when they do). I’ve written a previous column about this, but a refresher is always useful. An apostrophe-“s” after a noun makes it possessive, not plural, in almost all circumstances. A notable exception is making lowercase letters plural (i.e. “Mind your p’s and q’s”).
Cents get a dollar sign and a decimal OR a cents sign. You could write $0.75, or 75¢, or even, I suppose, 75 cents, and all would be equally correct. But .75¢ would suggest you are talking about fractions of a cent, which is probably best left to bankers and gas station price boards. On the whole, I’d recommend sticking with the dollar sign, since most keyboards don’t even have a ¢-sign anymore.
Further and farther are complicated. I’ve dedicated a previous column to this, but the simple answer is that “farther” indicates physical distance and “further” indicates an addition or improvement. The complicated answer is that they’ve historically been used more or less interchangeably and the distinction between them is a fairly modern one. I’d refer you to my previous column for a more elaborative discussion.