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  Writing for Business and Pleasure
  Copyright 2010 by
Stephen Wilbers
  www.wilbers.com

Columns on using apostrophes correctly

“Here's how to use apostrophes”
First published July 1, 1994

“More helpful hints on using apostrophes correctly”
First published April 18, 1997

 “When to use -- and not to use -- apostrophes”
First published April 25, 2003

  Writing for Business and Pleasure
  Copyright 2010 by
Stephen Wilbers
  www.wilbers.com

First published July 1, 1994

 Here's how to use apostrophes

by Stephen Wilbers
 

Here are eight simple guidelines for using the apostrophe correctly:

 

1. With contractions and dates, use an apostrophe to indicate the omission of letters or numbers:  She didn’t, I’ll, and the class of ’67.

 

2. Although the apostrophe is no longer required to form the plural of letters and numbers such as two Ph.D.s and the 1980s, use it when needed for clarity:  four I’s and p’s and q’s.

 

3. With a singular noun, form the possessive by adding an apostrophe and an s.  Although style guides differ, a simple approach is to follow this rule no matter what the final letter:  Baez’s concert, Wilbers’s advice, and my boss’s writing, not Baez’ concert, Wilbers’ advice, and my boss’ writing

 

4. With a plural noun ending in s, form the possessive by adding only an apostrophe:  three employees’ paychecks and two bosses’ recommendations, not three employee’s paychecks and two bosses’s recommendations.  Here’s a rule of thumb:  First make the noun plural or singular; then add the apostrophe. 

 

5. Do not use an apostrophe simply to make a noun plural:  two mistakes, not two mistake’s.

 

6. To indicate joint possession in a series, make only the last word possessive:  Sally and John’s report; to indicate individual possession, make each word possessive:  Sally’s and John’s reports.

 

7. Although inanimate objects may take the possessive form – the company’s failure – a construction using of is sometimes preferable:  the failure of the company.

 

8. In descriptive phrases, no apostrophe is needed:  sales record and news release, not sale’s record and news’ release.  In some cases, however, it is difficult to distinguish a descriptive phrase from a possessive phrase, as in teachers manual and driver’s license

 

  Writing for Business and Pleasure
  Copyright 2010 by
Stephen Wilbers
  www.wilbers.com

First published April 18, 1997

 More helpful hints on using apostrophes correctly

by Stephen Wilbers
 

Here are 10 simple rules for using apostrophes correctly:

1. With a singular noun, form the possessive by adding an apostrophe and an s: not the writers first draft, but the writer’s first draft.

2. With a plural noun ending in s, form the possessive by adding only the apostrophe: not three employees’s paychecks and two bosses’s recommendations, but three employees’ paychecks and two bosses’ recommendations.

Here’s a helpful tip: To place the s and the apostrophe in the correct order, first make the noun plural or singular; then add the apostrophe.

3. With compound nouns, add ’s or s’ to the last element: not my mother’s-in-law cooking, but my mother-in-law’s cooking.

4. To indicate joint possession, make only the last word in a series possessive: Sally and John’s report. To indicate individual possession, make each word in a series possessive: Sally’s and John’s reports.

5. Although there are exceptions to this rule, indicate possession by inanimate objects with an of phrase: not our initiative’s success, but the success of our initiative.

6. With contractions and dates, use an apostrophe to indicate the omission of letters or numbers: I’ll, didn’t, and the class of ’67.

7. Although the apostrophe is no longer required to form the plural of letters and numbers such as 147 MBAs and the 1990s, use it when needed for clarity: three I’s and p’s and q’s.

8. Do not use an apostrophe simply to make a noun plural: not two mistake’s, but two mistakes.

9. Do not use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns: not it’s, her’s, their’s and who’s, but its, hers, theirs, and whose.

10. Do not use an apostrophe in descriptive phrases: not sale’s record and news’ release, but sales record and news release. (In some cases, it is difficult to distinguish a descriptive phrase from a possessive phrase, as in teachers manual and driver’s license.)

 

  Writing for Business and Pleasure
  Copyright 2010 by
Stephen Wilbers
  www.wilbers.com

First published April 25, 2003

 “When to use -- and not to use -- apostrophes”

by Stephen Wilbers
 

Use apostrophes

 

1. To indicate the omission of letters in contractions, as in she didn’t and they don’t.

 

2. To indicate the omission of numbers in dates, as in class of ’97. Note: Be careful not to use a single open quotation mark (‘97) in place of an apostrophe, as in (’97).

 

3. To indicate possession by singular nouns – add an apostrophe and an s.

 

4. To indicate possession by plural nouns ending in s – add only an apostrophe, as in three employees’ paychecks and two bosses’ recommendations.

 

5. To indicate joint possession – make only the last word in the series possessive, as in Sally and John’s report.

 

6. To indicate individual possession – make each word in the series possessive, as in Sally’s and John’s reports.

 

7. To make compound nouns possessive – add ’s or s’ to the last element, as in my mother-in-law’s cooking, not my mother’s-in-law cooking.

 

Do not use apostrophes

 

1. To form the plural of letters and numbers, such as two Ph.D.s and the 1980s, except when needed for clarity, as in Be sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s and Mind your p’s and q’s.

 

2. To create the plural form of nouns – should be two mistakes, not two mistake’s.

 

3. To create possessive pronouns – should be its, hers, theirs, and whose, not it’s, her’s, their’s and who’s.

 

4. To create descriptive phrases, as in sale’s record and news’ release – should be sales record and news release. Note, however, that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish a descriptive phrase from a possessive phrase, as in teachers manual and driver’s license.

  

 

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