This pesky but crucial little curl gives more trouble than a barrel-load of monkeys let loose in a market if you don’t know what to do with it.
It’s crucial because it tells us who owns what (possession) or what’s been left out of a word (omission).
When it’s in the wrong place – which it often is – it can confuse your reader, which is why it’s so important to get it right.Trouble is, there’s something about the apostrophe that makes lots of people panic.
Just follow our simple guidelines and you’ll be showing it who’s boss in no time.
If you want to show that one person owns something, here’s how it goes:
It was Mary Brown’s house. (The apostrophe goes before the ‘s’.)
If the house belongs to two people, it goes like this:
It was the Browns’ house. (The apostrophe goes after the ‘s’.)
Just to make life interesting, there’s an exception to the rules above: its and it’s.
Its (without the apostrophe) shows ownership/possession.
It’s (with the apostrophe) is the short form of ‘it is’ – used to show something’s missing.
Example (using both):
It’s a long way to the beach from here but the dog followed us there, wagging its tail all the way.
If you want to shorten a word – to leave something out, in other words – that’s when you stick in an apostrophe.
There’s lots of them right here in this little lesson on apostrophes.
Don’t (instead of do not)
You’ll (instead of you will)
Here’s (instead of here is)
You’ve (instead of you have)
There’s (instead of there are or there is)
Who’s (instead of who is)
They’re (instead of they are)
What’s (instead of what has or what is)
That’s (instead of that is)
And many more.
And now we come to one of the most common mistakes (the one that seems to irritate grammar geeks the most):
Don’t worry, though. We’ve got that problem covered, too.
Once you’ve read our easy explanation, you’ll never need to think about it again. In fact, you’ll wonder why it ever bothered you in the first place.
If there’s more than one of something, just stick an ‘s’ on the end.
It’s that simple.
For example, CDs and DVDs should never have an apostrophe – they’re plural, just like books and albums.
If you have any questions about apostrophes – or any other grammar queries, for that matter, don’t stress – just ask the Word Nerds. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org