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Brand Shaming: Apostrophe Abuse
By: Maryann Fabian
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Target has always been the epitome of brand excellence, especially to those of us with a retail background. There was one point in the late '90s and early '00s when they had been winning so many retail ad awards that other stores never had a chance. Finally, they pulled out to “let” the other guys win (or so the story goes). For many, many years, it seemed this brand could do no wrong.

OK, that whole credit breach thingy over Thanksgiving was not good. But here’s another example of a brand starting to slip.

Target’s new spring trend commercial with the catchy music (that repeats over and over in your brain for days) has a fatal flaw. Did you notice? The phrase ‘60s mod has the apostrophe in the wrong place. On screen, it reads 60’s mod. Seriously, Target — there are maybe 12 words total in the whole script. 

I feel I must add a side note at this point. Bad grammar is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Don't even get me started on how the blogosphere is littered with misspellings, punctuation goofs, and apostrophe catastrophes (though here's a big shout-out to the awesome blog Apostrophe Catastrophes). And, while bad typos can and will happen to good people, copywriters and editors are supposed to know better when it comes to grammar. They’re supposed to be smarter than a fifth grader... at least in English class.

For the unaware, here’s a quick grammar lesson. The apostrophe is used to
1) Show omission
2) Show possession

So in the phrase ‘60s mod, the part that is missing is the rest of the decade — the “19” in 1960s. Mod is a trend from the decade, not the year 1960. In fact, the trend didn’t happen until later in the decade. Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty has an awesome website to help explain more.

Sadly, apostrophe abuse is not limited to Target. Other popular brands have fallen victim, such as Victoria’s Secret (a repeat offender),




Clinique, and even Starbucks (coincidentally, a brand without an apostrophe in its name).



Time magazine wrote a story last year about the movement to end the apostrophe. It seems to be run by people who believe companies spend "tremendous amounts" (Ha!) on proofreaders. Why not be like Lands' End and embrace it? They named their online magazine after the apostrophe and it's (short for "it is") fabulous. 


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About the Author
Maryann Fabian is a copywriter who has crafted the voice of some of this country's best brands.
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