Today’s featured “punctuation problem” is apostrophe use and misuse.
Let’s review the main uses of the apostrophe:
- Singular nouns are made possessive with an apostrophe-s, even if the noun ends in -s: (ex. the blog’s writer; my boss’s office).
- Plural nouns ending in -s are made possessive with an apostrophe alone (ex. the students’ papers).
- Plural nouns ending in another letter are made possessive with an apostrophe-s (ex. the children’s toys).
Use an apostrophe to form contractions. The apostrophe represents a missing letter or letters and connects (or contracts) two words together into one new word. The first sentence of this article has three contractions:
- it’s (for it is)
- you’d (for you would)
- haven’t (for have not)
Missing Letters or Numbers
Apostrophes may be used to represent or “stand in for” letters or numbers, similar to their use in contractions:
- I love rock ‘n’ roll (note the two apostrophes: one for the a and one for the d).
- I’m dancin‘ and singin‘ in the rain (the apostrophes “stand in” for the missing g’s).
- I graduated from high school in the ‘70s (note: the apostrophe represents the 19, and there is no apostrophe following the number. This is written wrong frequently).
Use an apostrophe, rarely, when needed to avoid confusion:
- Be sure to mind your p’s and q’s.
But Not Most Plurals
Use only an -s (with no apostrophe) to form the plurals of dates, acronyms, and family surnames:
- The Great Depression occurred in the 1930s [not the 1930’s].
- The high school students took their SATs [not SAT’s] on Saturday.
- The Garcias [not the Garcia’s] invited everyone to their home for Thanksgiving.
Avoid Apostrophe Misuse and Abuse
- Do NOT use apostrophe’s to make word’s plural (as in this sentence). We see this form of apostrophe abuse so often at the market that it has its own label: the green grocer’s apostrophe.
- Do NOT use an apostrophe in the pronoun its:
Wrong: The dog is chasing it’s tail.
Correct: The dog is chasing its tail.
Please share your examples of apostrophe misuse and abuse. And feel free to share this article on your social media sites.
© 2017 by Dean Christensen.