The Misunderstood Apostrophe


The apostrophe mark (‘) has two major uses in English. Usage 1: the apostrophe signifies that one or more letters in a word have been left out. So, for example, in poetry we have o’er for over; in contractions we have can’t for cannot and she’s for she is; and in abbreviations we have dep’t. for department. Usage 2: the apostrophe indicates a possessive noun (Terry’s house).

Misuses of the apostrophe

  • Decades. Example: 1980’s. There are no letters or numbers left out, and there’s no issue of possession. This should be written as 1980s, just a simple plural number of years (1980, 1981, …, 1989), no different than dogs, cats, etc.
  • Abbreviations and acronyms. Examples: TV’s, DVD’s. Again, nothing left out and no possession. These should be written as TVs and DVDs.
  • Its as a possessive. When it’s is used as a contraction, the apostrophe replaces the second occurrence of the letter “i” in it is. Simple. When its is used as a possessive, there’s no apostrophe. Example: Suppose that you’re writing about a dog and a bone it has. If you write it’s bone, this would be wrong. Unlike writing Fido’s bone, which takes an apostrophe, there’s no apostrophe with the word it. It’s more like writing his bone or her bone.
  • Plural nouns. When a group name ending in s is in possession of something, the apostrophe is placed after the s. Example: Boys’ toys are products targeted at adult male consumers. In this case, the toys are not designed for just one male (which would be written as the boy’s toys), but for the group of males (boys’ toys).
  • Names ending in s. This may be written in two ways, s’s and ‘s (e.g., Doris’s bike was bright red. Doris’ bike was bright red.
  • Your and you’re. These two words are often confused. Your is possessive (e.g., That’s your bike?). You’re is a contraction of you are (e.g., You’re a fine writer).

Copyright (c) 2015 by Affordable Editing Services


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