Using Apostrophes - What a Nightmar'e!
Updated: Nov 17
What do all of the below phrases have in common?
Fruit’s and Vegetable’s Cheap potato’s
Who’s sandwich is this? Gift’s for Teacher’s
You are correct – they are all misusing the poor apostrophe!
The apostrophe is one of the most widely abused punctuation marks in the English language. It is a little comma placed above the line of writing (like this: ’ ), which can be correctly used for three purposes:
When you want to express the idea of a person of object possessing an attribute, you can use an apostrophe:
This is Sarah’s pen. Sarah set John’s house on fire.
Lucas’s wine a month’s vacation
If the concerned is a plural noun, then you should add an apostrophe, and then look at its last letter. If it ends in s, stop there. If it ends in anything else, add an s.
the Joneses’ house the children’s toys
When possession is shared, only the second item is given an apostrophe +s:
You should really read Cohen and Stewart’s book The Science of the Discworld.
In colloquial speech (and increasingly in writing) we tend to contract negatives and modal verbs, and that is done by adding an apostrophe where there are missing letters:
He’s home. I couldn’t make it last night.
I’m drinking wine. We can’t wait any longer.
Plurals very rarely contain an apostrophe, despite everyone’s apparent desire to place them there. The following are correct plural forms:
1920s Mondays PhDs Kevins
The following are some plural forms which can include apostrophes in order to facilitate reading:
He gets only B’s. How many yes’s are there?
In recent years fewer and fewer apostrophes are being used for plural forms, so the following have become progressively more acceptable:
What should be kept in mind when it comes to the use of apostrophes is that the prevalence of the internet has resulted in a clear decline in the correct use of apostrophes for a number of, if not quite acceptable, then at least unavoidable reasons, the main one being the inability of web addresses, twitter handles, and the like to show apostrophes. And thus, even a professional editor ends up having to accept the Facebook handle RobertasEditing.