Thursday, February 23

Apostrophes – The Three Ways to Use Them Correctly

There are three different ways apostrophes are used:

1. Apostrophes to indicate Possession:

For all nouns EXCEPT POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS, apostrophes are used to show possession, e.g.
  • The man’s shirt (the shirt belonging to the man)
  • The ladies’ handbags (the handbags belonging to the ladies)
  • The people’s voice (the voice of the people)
  • The dogs’ collars (the collars belonging to the dogs)
Apostrophes are never used for possessive pronouns, i.e.
  • your = belonging to you
  • its = belonging to it
  • whose = belonging to whom
  • their = belonging to them
  • our = belonging to us.
The most common mistake in the use of apostrophes is when an apostrophe is added to a possessive pronoun, confusing it with the use of an apostrophe in the next category:

2. Apostrophes indicating Omission:

To show the omission of a letter or letters, e.g.
  • you’re = you are
  • it’s = it is
  • who’s = who is
  • they’re = they are
  • she’d = she would
  • he’ll = he will
  • don’t = do not
Another common mistake in the use of apostrophes is when an apostrophe should be used to show omission but is overlooked.

3. Apostrophes to show Distinction:

This last way to use an apostrophe is very rare and often misunderstood, but the apostrophe is used so that the reader can easily distinguish what the word is, especially in headings, e.g.
  • DO’S AND DON’TS (compare DOS AND DON’TS where the first word looks as if it should be pronounced ‘DOSS’)
  • A HISTORY OF THE 1980’S (compare A HISTORY OF THE 1980S where the ‘s’ almost looks like another number and is not so easy to distinguish when your eyes scan it quickly).

Keri: Article written by my amazing mother.

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