The plural of book is NOT book's!
Written by
Maria Murnane
October 2011
Written by
Maria Murnane
October 2011

I have a new grammar pet peeve: the use of a possessive apostrophe to denote a plural. In just the past few weeks, I’ve seen the following on signs, menus and posters around New York City:

  • Great gift idea for teacher’s
  • Open Sunday’s and Monday’s
  • We print on tank top’s!
  • Banana’s and mango’s on sale this week

I have no idea why this has become so popular, but it’s everywhere I go, and it drives me nuts! I even saw it in a self-published book last week, in which the narrator mentioned how she had consulted with various doctor’s. Yes, doctor’s. I was annoyed but kept reading, only to be distracted by countless other grammatical blunders throughout the book. The storyline was interesting, but it was completely overshadowed by the errors that popped up on every page. Every single page. Because of that, I will not be recommending the book to anyone, which is a lost opportunity for the author because I love to talk about books.

If you’re going to put your work out into the world, make sure the grammar is perfect. If grammar isn’t your thing, hire an editor! Actually, you should hire an editor anyway, because we all need multiple sets of eyes to help catch what ours can no longer see after staring at the computer screen for so long.

In a future blog post, I’ll go over the most common grammatical errors I see. For now, see if you notice the apostrophe overload. Maybe together we can stop the madness!


Maria Murnane writes romantic comedies and provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at

This blog post originally appeared on Reprinted with permission. © 2011 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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  • dianejwright

    "To" and "Too"

  • mindy trotta

    How about incorrectly adding an "s" to a surname? My parents had a sign by their front door that said: "The Klapper's" and I would always ask my mom, "The Klapper's what??" She never seemed to get, and obviously neither did the sign maker.

  • dianejwright

    You know who's awesome? Grammar Girl, that's who.

  • Olga Godim


    'Then' means the time after: I had a glass of wine and then went to bed.

    'Than' means comparison: an elephant is bigger than a fox.

  • Candice W. Coghill

    oops ... in my excitement, I was typing too fast! I should have written, "I heard 'between' used incorrectly ...' "

  • Candice W. Coghill

    Oh, Maria, you're my new She Writes idol for this post! The errors you list have long been major bugaboos for me; they drive me wild! Another that hasn't yet been mentioned is the much-misunderstood difference between ... between and among! :) Not too many months ago, I heard "between" used on one of the major network news shows (60 Minutes, I believe) by a reporter who has been a favorite of mine for years. I just sat and stared at the TV screen in disbelief! 

    A dear friend of mine who also is a bear on issues of spelling and grammar once took the middle-school parent newsletter, circled in red all of the errors she found and sent it back to the school with a grade of C-Minus and a terse little note ;)

    Thanks for a great post!

  • Kelli Swearingen

    Bwhahaha I'm so glad I found this thread. The misuse of the possessive apostrophe is one of my biggest pet peeves too. My son came home from school one day with a print out sheet for homework not only did they use the possessive where it wasn't needed it also had a sentence that went something like this: "Stacy liked to borrow books' from the library." I'm no spelling grammar whiz but if I have spot that then something is wrong. Oh did I mention this was a 5th graders homework? Excellent post!

  • Grace Elting Castle

    I edit PI Magazine (for professional investigators) and the greatest irritant is exactly what you've written about---misplaced apostrophes.  Drives me crazy!  Next in the line of irritants would be using your instead of you're, than rather than then, and insure instead of ensure. It's a plot to make correct grammar and spelling politically incorrect. I'm sure of it! 

  • Carla Parsons

    I used to type classified ads at a newspaper. You wouldn't believe (or maybe you would) how many garage sale ads listed everything they had - tool's, toy's, book's, lot's of everything!

  • Angela Orlowski-Peart

    This is a common problem with many self-published books -- grammatical errors, misspellings, self-invented punctuation. It drives me crazy.  

    Great post. Maybe if more people talked about this subject, self-published authors would take it to heart.  

  • dianejwright

    Yep. That's why we're working so hard to bring excellent editorial collaboration to our authors' work! We want to raise the expectations out there (or at least keep the high ones aloft). Just because a book is digital doesn't mean it stinks. Yes, everybody has access to the technology but yes also to the upholding of some bloody standards.

    By the way, even I leave the fine-toothing to my brilliant partner, Kathryn. Together, though, we're an editorial tour de force!

    Remember, it's submission season at Seedpod Publishing. Why not toss your hat in the ring!


  • Hillary Waterman

    Thank you! This kind of error drives me crazy and my poor husband is so sick of hearing me rant about it. At least now I have a community of like-minded curmudgeons to vent to/with!

  • Elizabeth Young

    Well done Maria for bringing this to our attention! There is no excuse for poor grammar.

  • Marybeth Holleman

    Yes I see this all the time, even in magazine ads. Bugs me no end. Sigh.


  • Jeannette de Beauvoir

    This has *long* been one of my pet peeves ... and it's been going on for decades. I hate misplaced apostrophes! However, here we're preaching to the choir. Short of giving brief grammar and usage lessons to local merchants, what is there to do?

  • Lynette Benton

    Oh, Linda Joy! I'm so glad I didn't misread it (and embarrass myself)!

  • Linda Joy Myers

    Lynette, I was wondering the same thing:)

  • Elisabeth Kinsey

    I *heart* let's eat Grandpa.  I remember a Simpsons where the Aliens have How to Cook Humans...then they blow the dust off to reveal several versions of How to Cook for Humans...The comma works the same as the dust.

  • Lynette Benton

    Is part of the joke the other errors in the post (in the email that went to members), like "than," rather than "then?" And the misplaced comma after Grammar Geeks?

  • Widdershins

    It's an evil apostrophe plot!!!

  • Olga Godim

    Maria. I'm glad someone finally raised this issue. Such mistakes are funny, true, but they also make the language seem 'dirty'. When I see such mistakes, they offend me, make me wince. That's why one of my favorite books is a grammar book: Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. Everyone who considers herself a writer should study that little book. Thanks for the post.

  • Elaine Fields Smith

    Yea Cindy! Yeah buddy, this conversation's has many fine points...The point's made.

  • Cindy Brown

    Regarding punctuation, this says it all...

  • Maria Murnane

    I am loving all the fun responses to my post! Please keep them coming-- I'm dying laughing at the "egg's" one hahaha. :)

    Here's another picture for you all from my local grocery store:





  • Linda Joy Myers

    I love this post too! It drives me crazy that writing teachers and coaches do the same thing on their home page!  I've been asked to judge contests where the grammar and the dratted apostrophes are wrong, so they immediately go in the "No" pile. People can't win a contest without understanding the rules of writing.

    With the explosion of self-publishing, all we can do is to keep urging people to hire an editor. It's amazing how many people think their friend can do it--maybe so, if the friend IS an editor! Right on with correcting punctuation around the world!