Apostrophes

Grammar Notes:

Apostrophes are somewhat complex, and are a common source of errors in writing.  Here are some quick tips (this is not all-inclusive!):

An apostrophe (') is often confused with the single quotation mark, (‘ or ’ ).  Note that the end single quotation mark (’) is an acceptable (and recommended) substitute for an apostrophe; however, the opening single quote(‘) is not.  Microsoft Word will auto-format the apostrophe ' into single quotes, but will usually auto-format it to an opening single quote unless it is part of a contraction or possessive statement.  This is an often-overlooked mistake in writing.  To force a correct “curly” apostrophe, press <ctrl>+' followed by another press of the ' key in Microsoft Word.  This will make the auto-format choose the correct symbol, the single end quotation mark.

Some rules for apostrophes:

  • Apostrophes can indicate possession, but should not indicate plurality.

WRONG:  There were four cat’s.
Right:  The cat’s collar is pink.

  • IF the word is plural and possessive, put an apostrophe after the s.

The teachers’ union is meeting this Friday.

  • If the word already ends in s and is not plural, add ’s.

Charles’s coat is finally dry.

  •  “It” is a special case; only add ’s if you are indicating a contraction.

It’s a new day.
The bug opened its wings.

  • Apostrophes should be used for contractions (Can’t, won’t, etc.).
  • Apostrophes should be used when letters are omitted.  Remember to use the correct symbol if using “curly” apostrophes.

WRONG: “Go get ‘em, boy!” he said to his trusty hound.

Right: “It’s ’bout time for some dinner,” she noted.