Sunday, April 15, 2018


The following is a summary of the apostrophe rules I taught. They are really quite simple.

The apostrophe is a spelling mark, not a punctuation mark. As such, it distinguishes between words that might be confused. (Aside: it’s not really needed, since we never confuse these words when speaking.) In spelling, the confusions arise because the apostrophe is used for two purposes, as set out below.

A) The apostrophe of possession:

1) Singular nouns and proper names: add ’s at the end.  Dog – Dog’s. Jim – Jim’s
    Problem: Words/names ending in -s. Usage for these cases varies. See section C below.

2) Plural nouns and names: Add the apostrophe after the plural. If the plural has no -s, add s’.No exceptions. Parents – Parents’. Children – Childrens’

3) Never make a plural by adding ’s to a word.
    Problem: Some newpaper style books specify an apostrophe to make plural out of a number used as a name: the 1970's, not the 1970s. I think this is wrong.

4) Possessive pronouns ending in -s contain no apostrophe. No exceptions. Your - yours. Her- hers. He - his. It – its. Our – ours. Their - theirs.

B) The apostrophe of omission:

5) An apostrophe is used to indicate a syllable lost or compressed through elision (combining two words that otherwise would be pronounced separately). No exceptions. He had – He’d. It is – It’s. They would – They’d. The garden is lovely  – The garden’s lovely.

C) Nouns/names ending in -s:

1) Preferred usage is to add ’s: “James’s book.” This rule expresses preferred pronunciation.

2) However, usage omitting the possessive -s in both sound and spelling is acceptable: “James’ book.”

Rule: When different usages are acceptable, choose one and stick to it.

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