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The Case (& Costliness!) of the Missing Apostrophe

Whilst I offer services to edit social media postings, I do not endorse the use of social media to potentially defame anybody. It's easy to avoid being named a the defendant in a potential defamation action, and the easiest way is to not slag off people in a manner that can be construed as defamatory. If you have a grievance, it is best to approach the offending party privately using whatever medium you find comfortable, whether it be written letter, email, or telephone call.

What has me pondering this is an article a friend referred me to that reported a defamation action following a comment on social media. The aggrieved party claimed he was owed superannuation by his former employer, so he wrote a comment on the former employer's Facebook post about the employer's alleged non-payment of superannuation. It referred to 'employees superannuation'. Without the possessive apostrophe, the phrase is rendered a plural noun and could be construed as referring to more than one employee owed superannuation and therefore a serial offence on the part of the employer. I took screenshots of the salient parts of the article, which was published by The Guardian on 10 October, 2021, and share them below, with some less-than-artistic additions by me in red.

When lecturing on the importance of correct and clear punctuation, I often cite what's become known as the Oxford Comma Court Case in Maine, but I am beyond delighted to have an Australian case which I can cite, too.

Also, the hapless and disgruntled ex-employee forgot his vocative comma (a passage which I've also underlined), but that's a story for another post.

Moral of the story? Punctuation is important!

Original images sourced from The Guardian's Facebook page

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