How to Use Apostrophes

Bad example of an apostrophe.
A bad example of apostrophe example. “Dogs” in this case is plural, but not possessive so it shouldn’t use an apostrophe.

Apostrophes are something you don’t want to get wrong. Besides creating confusion, a misuse of an apostrophe can be embarrassing—especially on your family Christmas card! Check below for how to use apostrophes, apostrophe good examples (and bad ones), and when not to use an apostrophe.

Three Ways to Use Apostrophes
+Omit letters from words, like in contractions
+Make nouns possessive of something
+Make single letters plural

The Rules for Using Apostrophes
+When using apostrophes to omit letters, an apostrophe needs to go everywhere you omitted something in contractions, ends of words, beginning of words, and years.
Good Examples: you’re, couldn’t, walkin’, ’twas, ’60s, ‘n’
Bad Examples: ‘n (should have an apostrophe on both sides), 1960’s (nothing is omitted and it likely isn’t possessive)

+When using apostrophes for possessive nouns, look at the usage in the following list:
-Singular possessive noun: Humphrey’s pencil (pencil belongs only to Humphrey)
-Singular that ends with ‘s’ or ‘z‘: Curtis’s (or Curtis’, though the first is often preferred)
-Singular possessive noun that ends with ‘s’ or ‘z‘ exceptionsMoses’, Jesus’, Zeus’ (never add the extra ‘s’)
-Plural possessive noun (more than one person owns something: pirates’ ship
-Double possessive (plural words that don’t end in ‘s’): children’s, women’s, men’s, oxen’s
-Compound possession: Jeff and Amy’s cat (means they both own the same cat) or Jeff’s and Amy’s cat (means they each own different cats)

+Use apostrophes to make a single letter plural.
Good Example: There are five a’s in the word “abracadabra.”
Bad Example: There are five as in the word “abracadabra.”


When NOT to Use an Apostrophe
+Don’t put an apostrophe on plural family names that are not possessive of anything
Bad Example: Merry Christmas from the Jones’
Bad Example: Merry Christmas from the Curtis’
Good Example: Merry Christmas from the Joneses (the Jones family)
Good Example: We just had dinner with the Curtises (the Curtis family)

+Don’t put an apostrophe on plural acronyms that are not possessive of anything
Bad Example: DVD’s for sale (should be DVDs)

+Don’t put an apostrophe on words that are not contracting (omitting) anything. Or, don’t put an apostrophe on possessive pronouns (like your or its).
Bad 
Example:  Can I see you’re new shoes?
Good Example: Can I see your new shoes?
Bad Example: That little dog is a funny thing; did you see it’s ears flopping around?
Good Example: That little dog is a funny thing; did you see its ears flopping around?

+Don’t use an apostrophe on plural years
Bad Example:  My favorite music is from the 1990’s.
Good Example: My favorite music is from the 1990s.

Try It!
Re-punctuate this sentence correctly:

Two Christmas’s ago, my sister’s and her husband’s kids threw away their three cousins Christmas card cause the cousin’s spelled Jenny’s and Carl’s last name with two ms instead of one.

Answer:
Two Christmases ago, my sister and her husband’s (Jenny and Carl’s) kids threw away their three cousins’ Christmas card ‘cause the cousins spelled Jenny and Carl’s last name with two m’s instead of one.

3 thoughts on “How to Use Apostrophes

  • September 19, 2014 at 4:26 pm
    Permalink

    This seems a trick: “Jeff’s and Amy’s cat (means they each own different cats).” Shouldn’t the original cat be plural?

    Reply
    • November 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm
      Permalink

      Hey Patrick, no offence, but they probably share a cat if you didn’t realize. Just giving you a heads up.

      Reply
  • November 12, 2014 at 2:35 pm
    Permalink

    Hey, I was wondering if you could tell me when to NOT use apostrophes in sentences? Although this website was pretty useful.

    Reply

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