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How to Rehabilitate the Apostrophe: Propper Apostrophe Usage

Updated on October 11, 2011

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.

At least all bases are covered.
At least all bases are covered. | Source
Et Tu, Disney?
Et Tu, Disney? | Source

The Apostrophe Song

Possession Rehabilitation

-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.

 While the contraction is correct, the fact that it was even used just adds to the overall grimace factor.
While the contraction is correct, the fact that it was even used just adds to the overall grimace factor.

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.


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    • Vicki99 profile image

      Vicki99 6 years ago from Meridian Idaho

      Thank you Hush. I hope more people take care to use apostrophes correctly... as well as the your vs. you're mistake. That one sure gets me.

    • hush4444 profile image

      hush4444 6 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you, thank you! I notice these common errors on hubs all the time and it really detracts from what the authors are trying to say. Voted up!

    • Vicki99 profile image

      Vicki99 6 years ago from Meridian Idaho

      Very appropriate apostrophe use there Denise. :)

      Thank you for your comments.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      I just came across my nephew's (notice that appropriate apostrophe, hee hee?) English papers from last year, which included common grammatical errors. This nailed it. Very useful.

    • Vicki99 profile image

      Vicki99 6 years ago from Meridian Idaho

      Thank you. It's always been confusing when to use the apostrophe correctly.

    • Rehana Stormme profile image

      Rehana Stormme 6 years ago

      The most common one has to be in "it's" instead of "its". They can be misused by even native English speakers and this hub is very useful in that regard. Voted up all the way!

    • profile image

      JRCDyer 6 years ago

      This is some very useful stuff. Apostrophes can be quite hard to swallow, especially when they're commonly misused on advertisements, labels and signs all of the time.