- Books, Literature, and Writing
How to Rehabilitate the Apostrophe: Propper Apostrophe Usage
Oh, that delinquent apostrophe! Always wandering in and out of rational thoughts and leaving the mayhem of confusion in its wake. The little cretin has been caught vandalizing artfully penned dialog to the point of mere incomprehensible utterances, and has been charged with criminal possession errors of the worst degree. It has even been rumored that the apostrophe has been seen creating false plurals in the dark places that respectable punctuation would never tread.
It’s time to take this deviant little hash mark into custody and put it through a Possession Rehabilitation and Contraction Action Program (PRCAP). It is important to remember that the apostrophe is not a “bad” mark; it just needs a little guidance and social intervention to help direct its path towards more constructive avenues of expression.
The program is divided into two sections to allow for a more individualized approach when dealing with apostrophes that need more intense rehabilitation in a specific area. Please refer to the individualized counseling topics below when setting up a local PRCAP chapter. With care and guidance, errant apostrophes can become clear and concise members of polite penned society.
Very Useful Style Guide
The Apostrophe Song
-Apostrophe shows possession or ownership. Place the apostrophe before the s for singular possession. Examples:
- Mike’s game
- Julie’s house
- Car’s engine
- Dog’s collar
-Make a note that singular words ending in s are not required to have a second s, though it is now required by some writing style manuals. Example:
- Class’s schedules
- Texas’s size
- Jones’s house
- Boss’s car
-To indicate plural possession, the noun must first be made plural by adding an s and then add the apostrophe last. Examples:
- Kids’ games
- Two boys’ lunches
- Two girls’ purses
- Two brothers’ cars
-When the plural form does not have an s, remember to place an apostrophe and then an s. Examples:
- Women’s bathroom
- Men’s department
- Children’s toys
-When showing possession with a singular compound noun add the apostrophe then s to the end of the word. Examples:
- Mother-in-law’s dog
- Brother-in-law’s hat
-For possession with plural compound nouns, make the compound noun plural and then add the apostrophe s. Examples:
- Mothers-in-law’s dresses
- Ladies-in-waiting’s hats
-In exception to the possession rule (there is ALWAYS an exception) is the words it’s and its. This is the most common apostrophe mistake.
- It’s is a contraction meaning it is or it has.
- Its shows possession.
-Never use an apostrophe with a possessive pronoun. Examples:
- Correctly shows possession – yours, mine, ours, his, hers and theirs
- Not only incorrect, but somewhat silly looking – your’s, yours’, theirs’, their’s, her’s, hers’, our’s, ours’. Never allow the apostrophe to defile the possessive pronouns, never.
-Remember that an apostrophe is NOT used to make words plural. This is another common mistake that reduces the most eloquent of prose to the visual equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard.
Contraction Action Program
Contractions are frequently used in speech and informal writing, but should never be used in formal writing with the exception of quoted dialog. In fact, contractions should not be used in formal or professional speech. For many linguists, contractions are seen as vocabulary byproducts that should be avoided at all costs. Note: vocabulary byproducts have been known to cause perceived loss of IQ when used frequently or for prolonged periods of dialog.
- Apostrophes are used in contractions to indicate the missing letters. The apostrophe must be placed where the letter or letters were removed. Examples:
You’re means you are. This is not to be confused with your which is a possessive pronoun.
It’s -- it is. Do not confuse this with its, which is the possessive form of it.
- Can’t -- cannot.
- Won’t -- will not.
- We’ll -- we will.
- Don’t --do not
- You’ll --you will
- I’ll --I will
- I’d – I would
Once the apostrophe has been properly rehabilitated, it will once again be safe to sparingly use contractions and show possession in polite society without the fear of utter confusion or outright laughter.