Posted: March 7th, 2014, 1:17 pm   By: brittany.corners

“I’ve just had an apostrophe.”—Mr. Smee explaining his epiphany to the Sleaziest Sleaze of the Seven Seas, Captain James Hook

This week, we examine apostrophes.

Ah, the apostrophe. The size of this little punctuation mark belies both its enormous importance and the consternation its misuse causes. Some creative curmudgeons have even devoted entire websites (like here and here) to chronicle errant apostrophes. Let’s do our part to stop apostrophe abuse.

What Apostrophes Do

1) They indicate the possessive form of nouns. For words ending in s, Associated Press style—our official writing style at Write.com—says to put an apostrophe after the s, not to go with s’s.

2) Apostrophes also signify when something has been omitted, most commonly with contractions, periods of time, or spoken language.

  • Ex) This holiday season, they’re expecting bad times at the Broadwell house.
  • Ex) The lamestream media ignored third-party candidates during the ’12 campaign.
  • Ex) Teens today love hip catchphrases like “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”

3) Less commonly, apostrophes create plurals forms of single letters. However, with multiple letters, as with CDs or LPs, no apostrophe is needed. Yes, it’s ugly and confusing, but we’re stuck with it.

  • Ex) Didn’t your mother tell you to mind your p’s and q’s, or to cross your t’s and dot your i’s?

What Apostrophes Don’t Do

1) They never, ever, ever (EVER) indicate plurals for nouns.

  • Ex) Mythbusters, we expected you to be better than this.

2) Apostrophes also do not create plural forms of possessive pronouns

  • Ex) Again?! Do we need to call in the GrammarBusters?

There you have it. Now if you misuse apostrophes after reading this, we’ll put you in the Boo Box.