Bite Size Grammar Tip: Apostrophes
Apostrophes are one of the more confusing punctuation marks in the English language. However, it is important to understand when and how to use apostrophes correctly in writing.
Possessive Singular Nouns
Most apostrophes are used to indicate when nouns are possessive or own something. To indicate that something belongs to a singular noun, place the apostrophe plus an “s” after it. For example, writers use apostrophes when discussing “Steven Spielberg’s new movie” or “Beyoncé’s new song.”
Possessive Plural Nouns
In order to indicate possession with regular plural nouns that end with “s,” place an apostrophe after the “s.” For example, “Witches’ hats are usually conically shaped,” “The tables’ legs were unsteady and needed to be repaired,” or “ The fairies’ wings were shimmering and iridescent.”
For irregular plural nouns that do not end with an “s,” add an apostrophe and an “s” after the plural noun. For example, “The children’s toys were strewn throughout the playroom,” “The discussion revolved around women’s issues,” or “The geese’s eggs were placed within their nests.”
Apostrophes are not exclusively used to indicate possession. Apostrophes are also used in a contraction, which is a shortened form of a word where the omitted letters are represented by an apostrophe. Contractions are not possessive but communicate when two or more words have been combined together. You’re, would’ve, or it’s are contractions for you are, would have, and it is, respectively.
Omitting Numbers for Years
If the first two numbers in a year are omitted, the omission is indicated with an apostrophe, such that it reads the ‘50s or the ‘20s.
Holidays also puzzle writers because although they have official names, apostrophes are not used consistently for these names. For example, in the United States, we honor April Fools’ Day and Mother’s Day, which incorporate apostrophes, and Veterans Day, which does not incorporate apostrophes. Since the naming of US holidays does not adhere to a standard rule, be sure to look up the official spelling for each holiday.
If a noun is plural, meaning there is more than one, do not use an apostrophe. For example, “I saw three students walking to class” is correct whereas “I saw three student’s walking to class” is incorrect.