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.

Fun with Punctuation

Do you make any of these common punctuation errors?

question-markThe purpose of punctuation isn’t to trouble us with pointless, hard-to-remember rules but to increase the clarity of our writing.

With this in mind I invite you to test your grasp of punctuation basics by taking a short, ten-item quiz. Keep in mind, there is one thing wrong with each numbered item. Find it and make a mental correction (paper and pencil are not required). This will be simple for some and more challenging for others. In all cases, reviewing the explanations below ought to reinforce your punctuation skills. Have fun. (And feel free to like, share, or make a comment.) Continue reading “Fun with Punctuation”

Veterans Day

A short history and punctuation primer.

us-flagToday we honor and thank those who have served our country in the U.S. armed forces in wartime. Originally called Armistice Day—to commemorate the signing of the armistice that ended World War I on November 11, 1918—the name of the legal holiday was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all Americans who have served during times of armed conflict. The proclamation, signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, read in part: “Whereas, in order that . . . a grateful Nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this Nation, the Congress, by an act approved June 1, 1954 . . . changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day.”

Why is the holiday written Veterans Day without an apostrophe in there somewhere? Why not Veterans’ Day or even Veteran’s Day?[1] After all, don’t we always use an apostrophe with possessives? Continue reading “Veterans Day”