Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How to Use those Pesky Apostrophes

Now, I know these are simple rules that most people know. But, a refresher never hurts :) So, here we go.

To show possession:

1. Noun's that do not end in an "s"

In this case, simply add an apostrophe and an "s"


John's car; Stacy's house; Jerry's book; Lupe's lipstick; Frank's wife; Lisa's dress

2. Noun's that do end with an "s"

In general, you'd add an apostrophe and another s


The witness's testimony; the dress's hem; Chris's paper

But when the extra "s" makes the word hard to say, the apostrophe is just added to the end of the word. This has become a matter of preference as well. When it comes to words that end in "s," you can either add the extra "s" or just leave it with an apostrophe.


Mr. Rogers' house; Socrates' essays

3. Plural nouns

With plural nouns that end in an "s" or "es," add the apostrophe to the end of the word


The ladies' room; the teachers' meeting; the parents' appointment; the beaches' tubular waves :D

4. Plural nouns that do not end in an "s" or "es"

Add an apostrophe and an "s"


The children's library; the women's luncheon

5. When you are talking more than one person

This one used to trip me up. If you are showing the possession of something by two people, only the second person gets the apostrophe


Tom and Michelle's house; Jerry and Michael's car; Mike and Laurie's kids

6. Abbreviations and Years

When dealing with abbreviations and years, add an apostrophe and an "s"


the CPA's accounts; the FDA's ruling; the USSR's economics; the USA's treaty; The 1980's; the 1320's

Plural examples:

the RNs' graduation; the PhDs' dissertations; the MAs' classes


For contractions, the rule is pretty easy. Just use an apostrophe wherever there are missing letters.


Can not = Can't; Did not = didn't; Should not = shouldn't; madam = ma'am; Hide and seek = Hide 'n' Seek

Its and It's:

Its = possessive form of it. The book has a picture on its cover. The dog has a bug on its nose. The car has mud on its hood.

It's = contraction for "it is" or sometimes "it has." It's raining today. It's cold in the auditorium. I'm sorry you hate the rules, but it's always been this way. ;-D


Scott said...

Woo-hoo! No more pulling out my Style Manual. Thanks for the great information. The Style Manual always confuses me. : )

Michelle Gregory said...

hehe, i can't believe you didn't cover it's and its. (darn, now it sounds like i'm critiquing your blog posts.)

Katie Salidas said...

You know, it always seems so simple, yet I still make tons of mechanical errors when writing. Post like these are helpful little reminders.

Michelle McLean said...

Scott - most manuals confuse me :D That's why I write my own LOL

Michelle - Ack!!! I can't believe I did either....no worries, I went back and added those :D

quixotic - I have to laugh at myself with the mistakes I make. My crit buddies are constantly highlighting mistakes that I've written posts about. Very embarrassing :D

Anna C. Morrison said...

This needs to be posted somewhere where all sign makers can see it.