Israel, My Love

It’s around eleven in the evening. My daughter has been sleeping peacefully for several hours. However, I’m still up, working on yet another freelance project. Suddenly, I hear the unmistakable playback from the morning news on the Radio Lev Hamedina and realize it’s getting late. The Toronto clock has hit past midnight.

Many of my friends wonder why I had decided to learn Hebrew or what on earth is the Kol Israel app doing on my cell phone. I’m not Jewish and have no plans of converting to Judaism. In fact, I’m perfectly happy with my Russian Orthodox heritage and plan on raising my kids this way. I simply find all things related to Israel, both ancient and modern, exciting.

I’ve been fascinated with Jewish/Israeli culture since thirteen and had even received a master’s degree in Ancient Israel. Now that I’m no longer in a grad school, I still keep on reading everything about the topic, from Bethsaida‘s annual field reports to books and articles written by Hershel Shanks. Most of my favorite music artists and talk shows are of Israeli origins. Some may find such fascination a bit strange, as Hebrew doesn’t have the same role in the popular culture as Spanish or French. Well, if a white person can enjoy Luis Armstrong’s jazz songs, there no reason why I can’t enjoy Boaz Sharabi’s ballads.

Before I continue, let me mention that Israel is VERY controversial. News, media, and differences in political opinions can easily turn a simple Mediterranean country into a hot topic. When discussing my last visit from three years ago with Pakistani coworkers over a cup of coffee, I wasn’t sure how to call the Golan Heights. Should I call the region Syria or Palestine? I thought to myself. I didn’t want to offend anyone. Many people, especially from the Eastern Hemisphere, don’t agree with the results of the Six Day War, and I fully respect that. Yet I can’t help myself but feel relieved that the world still has Banias, Katzrin, and Gamla secluded from the Syria’s conflict. Controversies aside, Israel is an amazing country for a variety of reasons.

#1 Israel makes a great tourist destination.

No matter what your interests are, you’ll always find something special to enjoy. Love nature? Try hiking in Ein Gedi or the Timna Valley Park. Are you an archaeology enthusiast? Consider signing up for an archaeologcal dig. Most digs are quite flexible with the duration of stay and can be easily fit into personal vacation plans. By becoming part of a dig, you’ll meet many interesting people from around the world and make an invaluable contribution to the archaeological research.  A thematic tour is another great option. Depending on your religious background and personal preferences, you can sign up for a Holy Land tour, which will focus heavily on sites from the New Testament, a Jewish heritage tour, which will include famous synagogues and historic centers, or even an ecological tour, which will mostly likely take place in the Arava or the Negev desert.  Even if you’re one of those overworked people, who want nothing more than spending an entire holiday on a beach, you can still benefit from a week-long getaway in Tel Aviv or Eilat. Both cities are famous for dining and nightlife, so rest assured you won’t get bored during your stay.

#2 Israel has an amazing entertainment scene.

Neither Sarit Hadad nor Miri Messika is topping the world charts. In fact, most people have no clue about who they are. However, it doesn’t mean these singers aren’t awesome.

Israeli music is quite diverse, as it bears influences of several cultures, including Eastern
European, Yemenite, Mediterranean, and, of course, British/ American. It’s not untypical to hear a rock song with Middle Eastern melody or a nostalgic ballad reminiscent of Russian music from the 90s. One can also hear Mediterranean songs infused with an addictive dance beat, clearly influenced by current trends in the music industry.

Israeli music scene is also very inclusive. Not all Israeli artists are of Jewish origins. Nasrin Kadri who had won a popular talent show two years ago is an Arab from Haifa, while Sharif, a famous mizrahi singer is Druze. Sameh Zakout (AKA Saz), who was born in an Arab town of Ramlah, was presented an opportunity to travel to Los Angeles and participate in the second season of Chai Be La La Land, a reality show that aimed at exposing Israeli singers to the international music. Let this be a mental note to those who believe in the “apartheid state” propaganda.

#3 Israel has made a great contribution to the world technology.

In spite of being relatively young (only 68 years), Israel has become one of the world leaders in science and technology. Many of its inventions, such as Intel, are being used all over the world. You can find the complete list of the technological inventions here.

#4 Israel is rich in history and culture.

This point needs no further explaining. The world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran, the prehistoric megaliths from the north, and the
Greco-Roman temples from various sites across the
country are a product of thousands years of history. Israel is one of the few countries in the Middle East where archaeological research is actively encouraged by the government and where it’s possible to experience both Egypt and Mesopotamia in a relatively safe environment.

How Educators Can Incorporate Heritage Conservation into School Curricula

The first time I walked into my daughter’s playgroup, I saw a model of St. Peter’s Cathedral from Rome placed on one of the classroom’s shelves. Having walked around, I also noticed the model of St. Basil’s Cathedral from Moscow in another room along with models of a few other landmarks from around the world. These were obviously built by older kids, who attend math and history classes in the same school. Just as we were driving back home, the idea hit me.  Why don’t these students build a model of one of the Palmyra’s temples or the Northwest Palace from Nimrud? Then I thought, Why not make heritage conservation part of school curricula?

As I had mentioned in my other post, heritage destruction is one of the biggest tragedies of our age. It’s almost impossible to talk about Mesopotamia without mentioning the issue. With Syria’s Civil War getting out of control and political instability in other adjacent countries being present, the number of important heritage sites is diminishing rapidly. Neglect, illegal construction, militarization, as well as deliberate destruction—all of these contribute to the dwindling of Syria’s and Iraq’s cultural heritages.

The question is how do we reach out to the general public? After all, the biggest percentage of our population consists of non-scholars with little-to-no background in heritage conservation.  I believe there is no better place to start educating lay people about the topic than schools, where future generations are developing.

My experience with public education is somewhat limited. I had enrolled in a teachers’ college right after finishing my master’s program because that was what everyone with a humanities background was doing (assuming that a law school or a Ph.D. program wasn’t part of the agenda).  After barely surviving the first two weeks of the practicum, I quit. The program’s structure and the school noise simply weren’t for me. However, I’d learned a few things about education in Canada during that month and a half of coursework that had preceded the practicum.

  1. Ontario curriculum is big on social justice. As a teacher, or at least as a practicum student from a teachers’ college, you’ll be expected to incorporate social justice into pretty much everything, be it a geometry lesson or a science class. Which can often be next to impossible.
  2. In the ideal world, all subjects should be interrelated. Math, science, history, and even physical education—all have to have some form of connection. The fancy term for this idea is cross-curricular/interdisciplinary learning.

In Ontario, ancient civilizations are being taught in Grade 5 Social Studies class and later in Grade 11 and Grade 12 history courses. It would make sense to include recent events into the curriculum. Please note that I’m using the plural form in my title because I’m also referring to curricula of other provinces and states. I believe it should be a global effort.  By incorporating heritage destruction into their curricula, educators would not only link courses on ancient history with modern issues but also raise greater awareness about the problem. Some activities teachers could plan for their students include the following:

  • Have students construct a model of the Northwest Palace as a group project during the study of Mesopotamia in Grade 5 Social Studies class. This cross-curricular activity would help students to bridge connections between Match and Social Studies and develop teambuilding skills, as it would be done in a group. This project could be readjusted for older/younger groups.
  • Encourage high school students to obtain volunteer hours, which are mandatory in Ontario, by participating in one of the global initiatives against heritage destruction, such as the ASOR’s Cultural Heritage Initiatives or Project Mosul. In an exchange for their hours, students would gain valuable experience and obtain a letter of recommendation from one of the leaders in heritage conservation.
  • Invite archaeology professionals to schools to host special workshops on heritage conservation.
  • Organize discussion groups about the importance of fighting heritage destruction.

In spite of overwhelming presence of popular archaeology magazines and free information on the Internet, there is still a big gap between the scholarly world and the general public. In the times like these, it’s important for different communities to come together and collaborate. The more people become aware of the issue, the more empowered our society will become in dealing with the crisis.

Indie Titles: Are They Worth Your Time?

If you are an avid reader, most likely, you are getting all your books either from some major chain store, like Chapters Indigo or Walmart, or your local library. But did you know that what you see at these places is a tiny fraction of all the books that had ever been written? Most stores  distribute only books released by major publishers, such as Random House or Harper Collins. Thousands of titles get published by smaller presses every year, and millions become self-published. Some independently published titles make it to small bookstores and gift shops, but most of the time, their authors have to rely solely on Kobo, Amazon, and a few other online stores.

It doesn’t always mean that independent titles are of any lesser quality than those that have made it to New York Times bestseller lists. Many less popular titles are just as amazing as top bestsellers and deserve more attention than they actually get.

First things first, let’s clarify the terminology. By the term “independent,” I mean both self-published books and those released by small, independent presses. The reason why I decided to lump them into one group is because of the endless struggle many authors from both categories have to face.

The truth is, not everyone has patience for two hundred rejections. Some aspiring authors are lucky enough to get a contract from a smaller press. Many others turn to self publishing. Nowadays, tools for creating a professionally-looking book are available almost to anyone with basic computer skills.  Platforms, such as Createspace and Lulu, make the entire process relatively easy.

Although many independent authors eventually do become successful, a stigma around the indie market still exists. Books produced without help of a substantive editor or a professional designer are more likely to have grammatical errors, unprofessionally-looking covers, and unconventional plots. However, I strongly believe everyone should at least consider buying an independently published title. Here are the main reasons why:

Terrible books exist both in indie and traditional markets.

You won’t believe the number of times I’d come across bestselling novels with plot holes and bad grammar. I’d even encountered an error-ridden classical title! I won’t mention the names because I don’t intend to offend anyone. However, this is true. Even the traditional market, no matter how competitive, isn’t perfect. Making errors is part of the human nature. Most of the time, editors and proofreaders will work hard to eliminate all mistakes and make sure the plot is top notch. However, there will always be an odd time when you’ll see a typo in print. Does it mean the author or the publisher doesn’t stand a chance? Not at all. It simply means there’s still room for improvement.

Indie books are more unique than mainstream books.

These books often don’t fit within the mass market for a reason. Since most publishers are on a tight budget, they can only afford to choose those titles that will appeal to large segments of the population. However, all people are different, and something that appeals to one person might not appeal to another. By exploring independently published titles, you have a higher chance of finding something that will appeal to you on a personal level.

Many independent authors are highly educated and are amazing at writing.

While MFA is not necessary for becoming a great writer, general education is always a bonus. Among independent authors, you’ll find many talented professionals from varying fields with an aptitude for creativity. Their writing style is often sophisticated, and their content is filled with interesting facts. Also, small presses are more likely to produce literary fiction and poetry, the two genres many big publishers shy away from.

Indie market is an amazing source for freebies and discounts.

If you haven’t heard about BookBub yet, you should definitely check it out. Every week, the web site lists hundreds of books available either on a big discount or completely for free. Authors of series often offer the first title at no charge in hopes readers will want to buy sequels. Oftentimes, they are successful. Getting a free book through BookBub or another similar platform doesn’t oblige you to anything and is a good way to figure out whether this particular author is right for you.

FINALLY… By buying an indie book, you’re helping someone to fulfill his/her dreams.

As I’ve mentioned, publishing world is tough, and getting a book out there is often half the battle. By buying a non-best seller, you are giving someone a chance to prove him/herself worthy to the world.

Conclusion

After reading the final point, you might be wondering why you should bother helping some stranger get more exposure for his/her writing. Well, let me reassure you that you don’t owe anything to anyone. So if you don’t feel like risking your fortune for some obscure book no one else is reading, you are not obliged to do so. However, you just never know what you might find if you look a little wider.

Over the past decade, I’d found myself enjoying music that had never been marketed in my area, connecting with characters from books few people know about, and listening to talk shows from overseas. With the world being so small and technology so advanced, you might always discover something less obvious but more fascinating.

Indexing Demystified

When I had finished my indexing course more than two years ago, my friends would ask me, “what is indexing?” I tried explaining it in simple terms, making this craft sound even more mysterious. For those who have been wondering what indexing is all about, I’ll try my best to describe it in this article.

Definition

Indexing can have several definitions. The term “web indexing” refers to the process of storing web contents, while “search engine indexing” means collecting and storing web data for “fast and accurate information retrieval.”[1] The indexing I’m referring to can be best understood in the context of books, journals, monographs, and other similar media. Basically, an index is a list of terms you’ll find at the end of most non-fiction books, and indexing is the process of generating such list.

Creating a high-quality index involves a great deal of analytical thinking and, of course, attention to detail. An indexer will read a text, try to locate the key concept and terms, and discover ways they are interrelated. A good index will always have a lot of sub-entries, references, and even double postings.

Some of the issues around the index-making process involve size requirements made by an author/publisher. If an index needs not to exceed a certain number of pages, choosing the right entries/sub-entries might become a challenge. An indexer will need to learn how to balance between making detailed references and economizing space–a very daunting task. Nevertheless, an indexer’s job can be very rewarding, as he/she gets to read a lot of books from many fields. Many former librarians, PhD graduates, and, broadly speaking, humanities majors choose to become indexers. Indexing is in demand in many fields, including sciences and law.

Why every non-fiction book should have an index

Recently, I had read a wonderful book on an excavation project in the Golan Heights written by one of the greatest scholars in the field. The content was amazing, and images, priceless. The problem was, it didn’t have an index. Since I was reading the book for enjoyment, this lacking didn’t affect me too much. However, if I were to use it for a research project, then there would be a problem.  Surely, one can use a table of contents to navigate around a book, but what about specific terms? How can one find them without an index? The answer is, going page by page. The process can quickly become wearisome for a reader and may affect his/her perception of the whole book. That’s why every non-fiction title, especially a scholarly one, should have a carefully-written index. Not only will it enrich the content but will also make the entire book more user-friendly.

Knowing your options as an author

As a non-fiction author, you have several options including writing your own index or using computerized software to create one.  There is nothing wrong with either of them. It’s even possible to generate one using the “Insert Index” feature located under the “References” tab in Microsoft Office.[2] To do so, you’ll have to mark entries first using the “Mark Entry” button, also located under the “References” tab. [3] If you click on the button, you’ll be able to key in sub-entries, cross references, and page ranges, as well as choose the format for page numbers. Although this method  may sound easy, you might end up with extra work, such as reversing some of the terms manually (i.e., “indexing, the art of” instead of “the art of indexing”) and ensuring these terms stay in an alphabetic order.

To avoid the hassle and to save time, you can always hire a professional indexer. Indexers use specialized software that alphabetizes all entries and sub-entries automatically and can format documents according to individual preferences (i.e., either run-in or indented). Also, if you want your sub-entries organized in a non-alphabetical order but to follow a certain chronology, your indexer will take care of that.  Even if you’ve already written an index, it’s always good to get a second opinion. Hiring an indexer might sound like a costly undertaking, but it will definitely be a great investment.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_indexing

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_indexing

[2] http://word.mvps.org/faqs/formatting/Createindex.htm

[3] https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Create-an-index-and-update-an-index-cc502c71-a605-41fd-9a02-cda9d14bf073#bm5

Resources

American Society for Indexing 

Indexing Society of Canada

“A Good Index,” by Siusan Moffat.

 

 

A Rough Guide to Buying an Archaeology Magazine

Have you ever found yourself flipping through colorful pages of some archaeology magazine while standing in the Science and Technology section of magazines at Chapters and Indigo? Then you’re definitely not alone. Many people, including myself, enjoy reading about archaeology. Whether you’re looking for general information or articles on very specific topics, you can find many such magazines available both in-store and online. While almost all news updates are now available on the Internet, in-depth discussions and debates can only be found in specialty magazines and books. Many of these discussions are quite enthralling and will leave you wondering how much do we really know.

There are several archaeology magazines from across the globe. If you live in Canada, you can find these magazines in most of the Chapters and Indigo stores as well as some Shoppers Drug Marts and Convenience stores. They are also available online for annual/bi-annual subscriptions. Below is the general information on some of them.

Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR)

If you’re into some serious stuff, BASOR is definitely for you. This peer-reviewed journal published by the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) contains articles on art, archaeology, anthropology, paleography, epigraphy, and many other similar topics. Among the areas of focus are ancient Canaan, Anatolia, Cyprus, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. Just beware that it’s not the type of a magazine you’ll want to read on your couch on a Friday night. The text is very elaborate and requires a great deal of concentration. However, it’s highly recommended for anyone who is serious about the subject.

Cost: US $280 for US residents and US $310 for the rest. I had bought it back in 2013 together with an ASOR membership for a much lesser value, but I can’t recall how much exactly I had paid.

Near Eastern Archaeology (NEA)

Not unlike BASOR, NEA is also published by ASOR and is geared towards a scholarly audience. However, I find it a bit more accessible in terms of language and content than BASOR. I also like the fact that it features summer digs and general books about the field. The price is a big factor too.

Cost: US$40 for US residents and US $65 for the rest.

Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR)

Whether you’re wondering if Jezebel was really that evil or if the James Ossuary is authentic, BAR is the right place to find the information. Beautifully designed and written in an accessible language, BAR focuses on the latest research in the lands of Israel, Jordan, and occasionally Turkey. The magazine’s website, the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS), also features free books as well as upcoming digs, seminars, and lectures. For an additional cost, you can also subscribe to the BAS library and find more resources written on the Biblical archaeology.

Cost: US$24.97 for print and US $19.97 for digital subscriptions. For the fist-time subscribers, the magazine offers a year-round subscription at $US 13.97. Well, the big downside of this offer is that it’s valid for US customers only. So if you live in the United States and are interested in archaeology, be sure to seize this opportunity!

Archaeology

For anyone who is more interested in general archaeology, Archaeology is the right fit. Published by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), this magazine contains both long and short articles about findings from all over the globe. Both magazine and the website feature countless field opportunities, books, and specialty events.

Cost: US$14.97 for print/electronic (Canadian and foreign residents add US $15)

 American Journal of Archaeology

Also published by AIA, the American Journal of Archaeology is a scholarly journal that has articles on the Greco-Roman world as well as the ancient Near East. Judging from the abstracts provided online, it’s a very serious journal. So be sure to grab your coffee first to keep your mind focused!

Cost: US $80 for print/electronic

Egyptian Archaeology

Egypt’s fans will definitely appreciate this magazine. Published by the Egypt Exploration Society and based in England, Egyptian Archaeology contains articles written by prominent Egyptologists and archaeology specialists.

Cost: £48 per year (£56 Overseas/Non-UK) for a yearly membership with the organization, which also includes a  magazine subscription. An individual issue costs £5.95.

Kmt a Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt

Based in Weaverville, North Carolina, Kmt Journal is another great source of information for Egyptology students and enthusiasts. The journal features articles on excavations and research written by specialists from across the world. On the website, you can also find the list of the latest titles on Ancient Egypt as well as a links to the travel website.

Cost: US $37 for US and US$45 for Canada

Minerva Magazine

Based in London, UK, Minerva publishes articles on art and archaeology of ancient Egypt, the Near East, Greece, Rome, and Scandinavia. It’s also a great source of information for museum junkies interested in the latest exhibitions happening around the globe.

Cost:  US $60/ £38 per six issues for Canada/US residents (£28.50/£30 for UK and £33 for Europe residents)

AND FINALLY…

Don’t forget to check out the Friends of ASOR page that offers a free online journal! The subscription is quick and easy and, above all, won’t cost you anything. All you’ll have to do is create an account with the Friends of ASOR to start receiving newsletters with articles on Near Eastern archaeology.

 

 

Fighting for Cultural Heritage: Does it Matter?

It’s no secret that we live in a less-than perfect world. Sadly, the modern geography is changing rapidly, and in a few years, parts of the Middle East might end up looking differently on the map. With refuge crises and terror threat being constantly replayed in the media, it’s easy to forget about heritage destruction happening in Syria, Iraq, and a few other countries. After all, why would anyone care about a bunch of statues disappearing when thousands of people are dying or fleeing for their lives? Yet anyone with a background in archaeology or world history would agree that heritage destruction is one of the biggest tragedies of the modern age.

I’m part of the ASOR’s Syrian Heritage Initiatives, a global effort to document cultural damage happening in Syria and Iraq. I decided to join it mainly because of my former academic background, which is in Near Eastern archaeology and languages, and because I simply care. I must admit that sometimes, it’s hard to remain optimistic about the whole project. Let’s face it; all we can really do at the moment is to collect the data and record the damage. Surely, there are people who are trying to rescue ancient treasures on the ground, but it’s an extremely risky business and the success rates aren’t terribly high. As for the post-war preservation projects, it’s hard to tell what the future holds. Nevertheless, there is still hope.

Places such as Palmyra and Nimrud are very important to the scholarly community worldwide. Anyone who has been in the academia even for a short period of time can testify how hard getting hold of the past can be. Even findings that are easily available can present so many enigmas. Talk about forgery trials regularly featured in the Biblical Archaeology Review. When significant portions of evidence disappear, more gaps need to be filled.

With modern technology, it’s much easier to track down sites that have been looted, intentionally destroyed, or damaged as a result of military activity. It’s even possible to preserve entire manuscript libraries and reconstruct ancient cities digitally. There are several organizations that work on heritage preservation.

The Aleppo Project

http://www.thealeppoproject.com/home-inn/

Supported by the Center for Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery School of Public Policy in Budapest, Hungary, the Aleppo Project is collaboration among people who care about the city’s future. The goal of the project is to gather information about the city’s past, document military damage, and plan for post-war restoration. The organization is currently looking for blog writers, map designers, and people who are interested in sharing their opinion about various matters by completing surveys.

The Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology (APSA)

http://apsa2011.com/apsanew/

APSA aims at gathering information about the region and documenting damage done to heritage sites. The organization consists of volunteer professionals from various fields, including archaeology, journalism, and web technology, who are eager to contribute their skills to the cause.

The Canadian Centre for Epigraphic Documents (CCED)

http://www.epigraphy.ca/

Run by a group of scholars and information professionals from Toronto, Canada, and other parts of the world, the center aims at creating digital archives of epigraphic materials from the Middle East and beyond.  The center’s main area of focus is early Christian writings of Syriac/Aramaic origin.

Heritage for Peace

http://www.heritageforpeace.org/about-us/

Based in Girona, Spain, Heritage for Peace consists of a volunteer network of heritage specialists from across the world. The organization seeks to document heritage destruction and support Syrians in protecting their cultural heritage. Currently, the organization isn’t actively looking for volunteers. However, they do need help in managing social media and writing the newsletter.

Monuments of Mosul

http://monumentsofmosul.com/

Supported by The Czech Academy of Sciences, the project aims at documenting monuments that had been destroyed by the Islamic State.  Currently, the team is working on releasing a satellite map of all the monuments and is requesting for more information on thirty eight statues that yet need to be identified.

Project Mosul

http://projectmosul.org/

As the name indicates, the project focuses on restoring and preserving northern Iraq’s heritage via digital resources. Currently, the project representatives are looking for help in sorting and masking images from various destruction scenes that had taken place at the Northwest Palace in Nimrud and other similar sites.

New Palmyra

http://www.newpalmyra.org/

The project’s main goal is recreate the site of Palmyra virtually, using computer technology. So far, the models of the Ach of Triumph and the Temple of Bel have been created. Hopefully, more sites will be reconstructed in future with the help of digital specialists.

The Syrian Heritage Initiatives (CHI)

http://www.asor-syrianheritage.org/

Supported by the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) and the US Department of State, the CHI seeks to document damage, promote awareness, and plan post-war responses. The team is always looking for help in various fields.

How can you help?

You don’t have to be a scholar or a specialist in 3D technology. Anyone with basic computer skills can contribute to either of these projects. These organizations are constantly looking for artists, researchers, archivists, and people of many other professions to help out with various tasks. If you know another language, especially French or Arabic, it’s always a bonus, as many of these organizations have communications in foreign languages. No matter what your talent is, you can become an integral part of the global effort to save our heritage.

Resources

https://www.rom.on.ca/en/collections-research/rom-channel/syria-today-humanitarian-crisis-and-the-destruction-of-cultural

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/05/29/the-islamic-states-threat-to-cultural-heritage/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/while-isis-destroys-hamilton-man-battles-to-preserve-historic-texts-1.2748734

The Apostrophe: Should It Stay or Go?

Dealing with the apostrophe can be undoubtedly frustrating. It often seems that everyone is misusing this small diacritical mark. Names such as “Mens Hair Styling” and “Dads Favorite Shop” are not uncommon among professional establishments. Text messaging and newspaper writing are a whole different story. Such frequency in misuse leads many to believe that the apostrophe should be abolished from the English language. If it’s gone, there’ll one less rule to remember, right? Well, not exactly. There’ll be way more complications than anyone can possibly imagine.

Learning rules about the apostrophe is not an insurmountable task. With a little bit of patience and persistence, anyone can accomplish it.  Basically, it is needed in the following instances:

  • To indicate contractions, such as “I’m,” “you’re,” “he’s,” and “she’s,” as well as “can’t” and “won’t”
  • To mark the possessive case, such as “cat’s” or “dog’s
  • To mark plurals of letters, such as “i’s” and “a’s,” when necessary

While singular nouns require an additional “s” after the apostrophe, plurals don’t need one. Most of the confusion arises when an acronym or a name ending in “s” needs to be put in the possessive case.  Here are some basic rules.

  • Classical names, such as Socrates, do not need an extra “s” in the possessive case. This letter is also optional for Western names, such as Keats and Harris.
  • Plural last names, such as Ellises, don’t need “s” similarly to other plurals ending in that letter.
  • Acronyms and numbers don’t require the apostrophe when used in the plural form

Ambiguity can be caused by the pronouns “it’s” and “its”.  The first represents the contraction form of “it is,” while the latter is simply “it” written in the possessive case. Once you master this rule, everything else becomes straightforward.

Abolishing the apostrophe will create new and confusing homographs, such as “were,” “well,” “Ill,” and “hell”. Together with misuse of commas, lack of the apostrophe can spell real trouble. Imagine the following sentences: “Well look at that,” “were late,” or “nurses home flooded.” Some may argue that the meaning can be easily guessed from the context. However, I don’t see a reason why we need to create more room for confusion by eradicating the apostrophe.

There are many other complicated grammatical rules in the English language besides those connected to the apostrophe. These include, but are not limited to, the use of commas, semicolons, modal auxiliaries, articles, and conjunctions. This already extensive list excludes all of the irregular verbs in English that can be remembered only through memorization and/or frequent use. If we were to eliminate all sources for potential confusion, half of our language would be gone. So the best thing to do is preserve and to continue learning.

Resources

 “Using Apostrophes in Awkward Plurals.” Grammar Monster. http://www.grammar-monster.com/lessons/apostrophes_show_plural_of_abbreviations.htm.

Crystal, David. The Fight for English, How the Language Pundits Ate, Shot, and Left. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Langley, William. “When theyre gone, well all be struggling with English.” The Telegraph, January 31, 2009.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/4413752/When-theyre-gone-well-all-be-struggling-with-English.html.

McArthur, Tom and Feri McArthur. The Oxford Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Nordquist, Richard. “Guidelines for Using Apostrophes Correctly.” About.com, 2014.http://grammar.about.com/od/punctuationandmechanics/tp/GuideApostrophe.htm.

Room, Adrian. “Axing the Apostrophe.” English Today 5:3 (1989): 21-23.

The Apostrophe Protection Society. “The Correct Use of the Apostrophe in English.”http://www.apostrophe.org.uk/page2.html.