The Importance of Apostrophes

If English isn’t your first language when you write you likely prioritize things like spelling, grammar structure and readability. As you should, but, there are certain things to look out for in punctuation that could change the meaning of your sentence without you realizing it. Grammar fanatics often talk about the common misuse of the apostrophe. The apostrophe serves multiple purposes and in the wrong context can be a complete disaster. Here are some wise words on how to avoid these mistakes and examples of what to watch out for.

Indicating Possession is the most common use of apostrophes

Apostrophes are required when a noun belongs to a subject to indicate the relationship.

For example:

Jared’s sandwiches were on the table this morning. This afternoon, when he got hungry, Jared’s sandwiches were nowhere to be found.

This tells the reader that the sandwiches belong to Jared 

Occasionally apostrophes can be used for plural nouns

When indicating a plural single letter word it is appropriate to use an apostrophe.

For example:

My daughter has trouble pronouncing her b’s

The apostrophe tell us the the letter B in all words is a trouble spot for the daughter.

However, this is a very minor use of the apostrophe it is a very common mistake to use an apostrophe when indicating a plural noun. This is not correct and will make the noun appear possessive rather than plural.

Incorrect example:

The boy’s coach was a former Olympian.

While this would be correct if the intention was to indicate that the coach belonged to the boys if the author intended to say, “The boys coach was a former Olympian” it refers to the coach generally by his job position rather than a specific group of boys the coach belongs to. 

As a general rule of thumb, DON’T use apostrophes with plural nouns.

Use apostrophes for contractions to combine two words

Contractions are used often in English to combine two short words. An apostrophe is often put in place of a letter that was dropped from one of the words.

Examples:

Do not = Don’t

Can not = Can’t

Was not = Wasn’t

It is = It’s

It’s vs. Its

If you are intending to say “It is” using a contraction is correct however if “it” is the subject and you want to indicate possession don’t use an apostrophe.

Example:

The cat had grown old and its desire to hunt had faded away.

Abbreviations

Apostrophes are often used in abbreviations, similarly as in contractions, where another character once was.

To indicate the early 2000’s you may use ’00s

Example:

Fashion in the ’00s was horrendous

This is another minor use of the apostrophe. The most important things to remember is apostrophes are 1) apostrophes are most often used to indicate possession 2) Don’t use apostrophes for plural nouns. Apostrophes can be confusing but grammar gurus will notice and discredit your work if there are mistakes. To avoid these mistakes follow these simple rules to excel in your writing.