Punctuation Problem: Apostrophe Use and Misuse

Avoid apostrophe abuse!

Today’s featured “punctuation problem” is apostrophe use and misuse.

Let’s review the main uses of the apostrophe:

Possessives

  • 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).

Contractions

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 dancinand 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).

Some Plurals

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 AbuseIMG_1818

  • 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.

Author: Dean Christensen

Educator, copyeditor, writer, voiceover guy, baseball bug, logophile, classical music afficionado, classic rock 'n' roll lover, classic-movie buff, bibliophile, former this, used to be that, and future who knows what. Every day is an adventure in learning.

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