Apostrophes

If your teacher marks "Ap" or "ApX," write the rule you violated.

 

Ap: apostrophes.

5. contractions.

1. possessives.

6. its and it's.

2. plural nouns.

7. plurals of words, letters, abbreviations, numbers or dates.

3. singular nouns and plural nouns.

Ap X: misuse.

4. joint possession and individual possession.

 


1. Use apostrophes (-'s) to indicate possessives:

WRONG: Mr. Wongs address

RIGHT: Mr. Wong's address

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2. Use -s' for possessives of plural nouns. An exception is plurals that do not end in s ("the people's choice"). Be careful with proper names.

WRONG: the Democrat's leader the Wong's address the Harris's address
RIGHT: the Democrats' leader the Wongs' address the Harrises' address

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3. Do not confuse a singular noun ending in -s or -z with a plural noun. Usage is divided regarding such words: Dickens's or Dickens' novel? jazz's or jazz' popularity? The Keables Guide recommends that you add 's to any singular noun or pronoun (Dickens's and jazz's).

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4. Use one apostrophe for joint possession; for individual possession, use separate apostrophes:

JOINT POSSESSION: Spot and Rover's master

INDIVIDUAL: Spot's and Rover's pawprints

Often, however, the best solution is to rephrase using a preposition like of or with:

AWKWARD: Juliet and Romeo's love BETTER: the love of Juliet and Romeo
AWKWARD: my sister's and my relationship BETTER: my relationship with my sister

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5. Do not omit apostrophes with contractions: can't, didn't, she's, should've, they're.

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6. Do not confuse the possessive pronoun its and the contraction it's:

It's unwise to judge a book by its cover. It's been a while since the car had its last tune-up.

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7. Use apostrophes for plurals of words and letters, but not for plurals of numbers, abbreviations or dates. The apostrophe and the s are excluded from italics:

APOSTROPHE: My friend uses five like's in every sentence. Dot your i's.

NO APOSTROPHE: Temperatures were in the 60s. Many PhDs were unemployed in the 1990s.

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Ap X: misuse. Do not (a) mistake plural nouns for possessives, (b) mistake third-person verbs for possessives, or (c) add an unnecessary apostrophe to a possessive pronoun:

WRONG (PLURAL): Dog's bark. I met the Wong's. RIGHT: Dogs bark. I met the Wongs.
WRONG (VERB): The bell ring's. RIGHT: The bell rings.
WRONG (POSSESSIVE PRONOUN): It is our's, not her's. RIGHT: It is ours, not hers.

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