All About Apostrophes

The apostrophe is a confusing punctuation mark, but a few simple guidelines can make using apostrophes less bewildering.

When to Use Apostrophes

  • Apostrophes are used to show possession. Typically, you add an apostrophe and an “s” after a possessive noun. If a noun is plural and ends in “s,” add just the apostrophe.
    • President Bush’s dog threw up last night.
    • My parents’ car is big and ugly.
  • Apostrophes are used in contractions to show where letters have been removed. They are also used to take the place of numbers when abbreviating years.
    • It’s too bad that Bo is not the next American Idol.
    • I can’t work tonight because I want to watch “Lost.”
    • Tony Clark was obviously the best graduate of the class of ’92.
  • Apostrophes may be used in plural numbers/words and abbreviations. The following sentences include optional apostrophes:
    • Sasha Cohen needs to practice her figure 8’s better.
    • The killer slashed Z’s all over the victim’s body.
  • In some instances, apostrophes are needed to show plural words. Here is an example of an apostrophe that is necessary for clarity:
    • John Kerry has said enough “I’m sorry’s” to last a lifetime.

Avoid Common Apostrophe Mistakes

  • Don’t use apostrophes to pluralize decades.
    • Wrong: The 1950’s were the era of milkshakes and Eisenhower.
    • Correct: The 1950s were the era of milkshakes and Eisenhower. 
  • Don’t use apostrophes with plural nouns that are not possessive.
    • Wrong: The soldier’s declared martial law and looted the museums.
    • Correct: The soldiers declared martial law and looted the museums. 
  • Don’t use apostrophes in possessive pronouns like its, hers, ours, or yours. This is the only time when possession does not warrant an apostrophe.
    • Wrong: Bank One Ballpark even has it’s own life support system
    • Correct: Bank One Ballpark even has its own life support system

To view or print our Helpful Handout, click here: All About Apostrophes

*comes with learning comic attached

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Page last modified February 14, 2019