Writing Services Grammar: How to use the apostrophe

Posted by on Jun 23, 2014 in Writing Blogs | 0 comments

Lisa Thomas Writing Services Grammar Patrol strikes again!

We’ve all seen signs offering ‘earring’s’ for sale  or read pieces about SME’s or adverts asking for applicants to submit their CV’s.

They’re all examples of what I call itchy apostrophe disease, and they drive me up the wall. You may not be affected in quite the same way as me, but then I’m a grammar loser – there are plenty of us out there. And if they’re anything like me, they will avoid buying anything from someone who can’t control their apostrophes.

Apostrophes are generally used to show: 

*  The possessive – Susan’s car was in the garage so she had to catch the bus to work i.e. The car belonging to Susan.

*  When letters have been missed out – i.e . I’ve (I have) you’re (you are ) we’re (we are), or hadn’t (had not), shouldn’t (should not) etc.

Generally, it’s the former where people appear to have the most problems and tend to stick apostrophes in willy-nilly on many words ending in s that just don’t need them.  You repeatedly see apostrophe abuse such as CD’s, DVD’s, 1980’s etc. In these examples, the placement of the apostrophe would only be correct if you were talking about something belonging to a CD, DVD or the year 1980.

Areas of confusion:

Because we’re dealing with the English language, things aren’t always straightforward.

The possessive of words ending in s – The business’s accounts were overdue.  Put your apostrophe after the word and add the s, just as you would if the word ended in any other letter. If you are talking about a proper name, such as James, both James’s and James’ would be correct.

Plural possessive – if we were writing about a number of businesses with overdue accounts it would be written as the businesses’ accounts were overdue. There is no need to add another s after the apostrophe.

It’s and its – this little word causes major confusion because it breaks the rules. Given the examples we’ve discussed, you would naturally think the word it’s means something belonging to it. But it doesn’t. It’s means ‘it is’…something belonging to it is simply its.

In the majority of cases, using apostrophes correctly is pretty simple, you just have to remember that it’s and its break the rules.  So make sure you avoid itchy apostrophe disease – or you might find a grammar patrol knocking on your door.

If you’re still unsure as to where your apostrophes do and don’t need to go, why not consider having your work proof read?  Lisa Thomas Writing Services informs you of any changes made to your text, highlighting to you where you have used an apostrophe incorrectly and in effect, educating you in the process.

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