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Apostrophe's - what?

by: Marilyn Owen (25 July 2008)

It seems that everywhere I go, even when eating a healthy snack, I am faced with the sight of a redundant apostrophe in a plural noun or phrase such as for example Omega 3ís! I ask myself looking down at my packet of healthy tortilla chips Omega 3ís what?

The reason for my annoyance at seeing this commonly used mark of punctuation in a plural is simply because - it shouldnít be there.

So here briefly are the rules for when and when not to use an apostrophe.

We use an apostrophe to show either

(a) possession
(b) contraction

(a) Possession

  • You want to show that something belongs to one person, animal or thing - so place the apostrophe after the noun and add an s (singular)
    • Paulís book
    • teacherís pet
    • Lindaís sons
    • the bookís index
    • the cakeís ingredients
    • the breadís consistency
  • You want to show that something belongs to more than one person, animal or thing (plural):- this is when you have more than one cat, dog teachers etc who share something.
    • The catsí bowls
    • the dogsí bones
    • the teachersí timetables

BUT NOTE: the rule for adding apostrophes is to place the apostrophe after the plural endings Ė some plural nouns donít end in S! Think children and people, where this time the apostrophe is placed before the s!

  • The childrenís room
  • The peopleís charter

Lastly on the subject of plurals, we donít use an apostrophe simply to say that something is plural! Hence the Omega 3s! Iím including here some actual real life examples of this sad misuse of the apostrophe. Use the apostrophe either to denote possession or to show that there is a missing letter such as in youíre, which is in fact a friendly contracted form of - you are !

(b) Contraction

Here the function of the apostrophe is to indicate that there is a missing letter. Perhaps the most commonly used example is itís which is an abbreviated and much friendlier version of it is. Using contracted words is nice and informal and creates greater text flow in your writing.

However itís important not to make the following mistakes:

  • Never use an apostrophe in its for example in the following example:
    The house we saw yesterday is the one for us. Its location is perfect for our needs.
    This is because in this sentence the word its refers to the houseís location and is not a shortened form of it is!

    In a similar way, never use an apostrophe in your when it indicates possession or relationship: for example:

    • Your friend, wife, husband
    • Your computer, books, pen

    But do take care to use an apostrophe to shorten you are, we are and they are. Here are some examples:

    • Weíre coming to visit you today.
    • Weíre always at your service.
    • Youíre such a good friend to me.
    • Youíre working very hard.
    • Theyíre coming later on.
    • Theyíre very happy.
  • Thatís all for now! Watch this space for some more examples of dos and doníts when it comes to apostrophes!

    Views: 3913

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