It has been awhile since I wrote on the topic of punctuation. As we’re full swing into the new school year, this is about the time I teach my students about the dreaded Apostrophe.
Apostrophes seem to give people plenty of problems. At least that’s what I discern from the amount of incorrect apostrophe usage making me cringe. The apostrophe problem seems to be most prevalent in signage and in menus (in addition to early-semester writing assignments). If you ever come across a menu that has a correction mark in it, it was probably me.
Why is it one of the smallest punctuation signs seems to give us so much grief?
When it comes to incorrect apostrophe use, there are essentially two main offenses occurring:
1. Apostrophes are incorrectly used and make plurals possessive; or
2. Apostrophes are not used and turn what should be a possessive into a plural.
For possession, remember two simple rules (and a few exceptions).
Rule #1—If the possessive noun is singular, add ’s.
Right: My sister’s occupation is exciting and perilous.
Wrong: My sisters occupation is exciting and perilous.
Rule #2—If the possessive noun is plural, add s’.
Right: The sisters’ gift to their parents was extravagant.
Wrong: The sisters gift to their parents was extravagant.
- If a singular noun ends in an s, just add an apostrophe.
Paris’ streets are dark and crooked.
Chris’ parents bought him a car for his birthday.
- If a plural noun does not end in an s, add an ‘s.
The women’s concerns were addressed by the committee.
The geese’s flight pattern is over the marsh.
- Pronouns do not take apostrophes to be possessive.
Wrong: I think the book is her’s.
Right: I think the book is hers.
The biggest offender = it’s. Remember that it’s always means it is. (It’s is never considered a possessive.)
Maybe I could get a job with the police.
Possession is nine tenths of the law so therefore
I am nine tenths of the law. Sort of.
– Sad Apostrophe
In another post I’ll cover when and how to use apostrophes in contractions. But until then, you can read examples of pathetic apostrophes here: http://www.apostrophecatastrophes.com/