Of all the spelling mistakes that jarr the senses, the use of ‘of’ when we mean ‘have’, is the worst.  It makes me cringe – which one should pronounce as ‘curringe’, with the accent on the second syllable, for emphasis – as it betrays a lack of understanding of the basics of our beloved language.

It stems I think from the use of the shortened form of ‘have’ in common parlance, as in ‘I could’ve been there’.  Two things stick out for me here. Firstly, surely they know that the full length version is ‘should have’ and can make the micro-leap to ‘ve?  Secondly, isn’t it odd how words like isn’t and should’ve are spelt as one word, not two?  You would logically expect to see is ‘nt, or should ‘ve, but I guess we’ve been economical over time and moved the orphaned word into the bosom of the main verb.

For more on this, see a rather good summation from Dave’s ESL Cafe.

It’s not really acceptable to use it in texts either, since ‘ve’ works perfectly fine as its own word in that medium, with or without the apostrophe. Our use of language in mobile device texts is a whole other ball game though, and will probably provide plenty of fodder for future posts.

Of course, you could avoid looking a bit stoopid by saying ‘shoulda’.  As long as you don’t write shouldo…