In a 2024 NY Times opinion piece entitled, Lets (sic) Chill Out About Apostrophes, John McWhortera postulated that apostrophes should only be used when the context is not sufficient to portray meaning.

His argument that our language got “along just fine without apostrophes until the 1500s.” My answer to that ridiculous notion is for anyone to pick up some Chaucer and read it to a non-English-major or non-homeschooled-crowd. What’s he sayin’?

Now, McWhorter makes a fine point in this: “‘Its your birthday — your 17!’ may look barbaric to our eyes, but thanks to context it occasions no loss of clarity.” Truth. Most people would understand that statement. But, it’s more than missing an apostrophe, it’s replacing two words with one. “Your” for “you” and “are.” Those are different words with very different meanings.

I think it would be better for us all to learn to use punctuation properly, because it gives words meanings.

Actually, after they tried and failed to get rid of the Oxford comma, we found out that it’s necessary to add meaning. And just because it’s not used in texting, punctuation is an important part of language.

My biggest pet peeve is that so many people confuse words, such as the difference between ‘loose’ and ‘lose’. It makes my head hurt. Also, my aforementioned reference to the difference between “your” and “you are,” and there are many others.

English is hard, let’s not make it harder by eliminating features that make it more understandable.

aJohn McWhorter is a Columbia University linguist explores how race and language shape our politics and culture.