Apostrophe for the Oakland A’s?

I received the following inquiry from kiddle97:

Hi Kate,

I was reading the SPOGG (I’m sure you know what Society that is!) newsletter today, and it had an article about you and your grammar vandalism, and so that led me to wonder if maybe you could answer a question for me? My husband and I disagreed about it the other day. I was certain I was correct, and he was certain he was. Can you help? It’s concerning the Oakland Athletics baseball team.

I had written something about the “As” in my blog the other day, and when he was reading it, he told me it needed an apostrophe. I said that there was no way it could need an apostrophe, as it was not possessive and not a conjunction for “Athletics is”. He said it needed one because it was a contraction, supposedly having dropped the letters t,h,l,e,t,i, and c.

Now, granted, you see “A’s” everywhere you go on anything official, but as you have pointed out in your blog, it’s frequently businesses, etc., that need the most help. I’ll be so ashamed if I am wrong, and yet, my husband will almost be proud if he is wrong, because then it will prove, in his words, that “popular culture has won out.” Help!

First of all, thanks for asking, kiddle97! Allow me to begin with the good news. Your husband is incorrect — the apostrophe isn’t meant to replace the letters following the A.

However, A’s is the correct form.

When discussing a single letter in the plural form, one always adds an apostrophe.

I would have received all A’s first quarter senior year if it hadn’t been for the evil Leo P. Kenney and his wild head of hair.

However, one doesn’t add an apostrophe for plurals of multiple letters.

Roughly half the RAs at Fairfield University get fired each year for underage drinking.

Please don’t be ashamed, kiddle97. This is a tough one — even I didn’t know this rule until recently! You’re right, however, to be suspicious about whether Major League Baseball had it right. So many businesses let grammar errors slip through the cracks and don’t find out until long after they’ve blasted them everywhere.

If anyone else has any grammar-related questions, ask away!

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11 responses to “Apostrophe for the Oakland A’s?

  1. Thanks Kate. I’m so glad that the rules I was certain I knew weren’t to blame! And now I know, so I won’t defame my husband’s favorite baseball team any longer by incorrectly calling them the “As”. (I thought of threatening to defect, and claiming the NY Yankees as my baseball team, but I felt that would be too low a blow. Perhaps coming from Boston you’d have to agree?) My husband got a kick out of seeing that I had asked you about our little discussion, by the way. He wanted me to make note that, in his words, “trademarks trump grammar rules.” (I feel that trademarks are the lazy man’s way of getting out of editing, but that’s a story for another day.)

  2. That sneaky Leo P. Kenney!

  3. I heard your segment on NPR the other day. As an editor for a scientific journal, I certainly commend and appreciate your efforts to draw attention to the proper and correct use of punctuation. At the same time, I find your generous use of words and phrases such as “like” and “you know” to be inconsistent with your concerns about bad grammar. When I listen to many (if not most) young people today, my sense is that epidemic use of these verbal crutches may ultimately have a much more negative impact on the English language than does an omitted comma or hyphen.

    That said, please keep up the good work.

    Paul McDaniel
    paulm@uidaho.edu

  4. Ummm, I love the LEO P KENNEY REFERENCE!!! And you can pretty much apply that sentence to anyone who took field bio.

  5. Katharine Swan

    Anonymous –

    As part of the “like” and “you know” generation, I have to say that I don’t think it’s the crisis some people seem to think it is. As Kate commented in an earlier post, she was very nervous. I think “like” and “you know” are often used like “ummm” — words and phrases inserted in order to buy time when you’re trying to think of what to say next.

    I also think it is important to note that most people who say “like” and “you know” don’t write like that. In other words, I don’t think it will have any significant impact on language, as the written form always has the last word, so to speak.

  6. Katherine, I’ve been listening closely to people lately, and I’ve found out that several of my good friends, several of my coworkers and all three of my roommates use “like” and “you know” ALL THE TIME! I think people notice it more on radio because you’re nothing but a voice.

    How can I break this habit??

  7. Dear Grammar Vandal,
    I’m wondering when you make an appointment with your doctor what do you have? A doctor’s appointment? A doctors’ appointment? A doctor appointment? Thanks!
    -Elizabeth
    P.S. I would have emailed you, but the way my computer is set up it kept trying to open my email software that isn’t set up and I was never able to figure out what your email address was exactly.

  8. Someone sent me your blog — and I have to ask…what rules are you using for the “A’s”?

    Per CMS:
    Capital letters used as words, abbreviations that contain no interior periods, and numerals used as nouns form the plural by adding s.

  9. “The Simpsons Movie” – where’s the apostrophe?

  10. Daniel and Elizabeth –

    Doctors appointment and Simpsons Movie are both examples of phrases that use nouns as modifiers. No apostrophes are needed.

    Other examples:

    Coffee break, mince-meat pie, television show, car park (for the British), cottage cheese, apple juice, love letter, Professors Row, farmers market, help desk, customer service representative (a two-for one!), baseball game, jury duty, line judge, Veterans Day, Washington Monument, carrot cake, state senator, and color commentator.

    When you actually think about it, it’s almost impossible NOT to use nouns as modifiers.

  11. I actually received an “A” from Leo P. Kenney. Failed Spanish, tho.

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