Ah, the apostrophe. Like the comma, it’s so little and so misunderstood. Again, I have scoured the internet looking for memes, and again, they are everywhere.
<–This pic comes from the website of The Independent–the article is entertaining.
But I digress.
1. Use the apostrophe to show possession.
Ex.: I went to Sara’s house. That is Erica’s sweatshirt. The boy’s hat is blue. The boys’ hats are blue. The Smiths’ house is down the street.
2. Use the apostrophe to replace omitted letters in contractions.
Ex. Don’t = do not. It’s = it is. Wouldn’t = would not. ’90s = 1990s. (Note the absence of an apostrophe before the s in that last example.)
3. Use the apostrophe to form plurals of lowercase letters.
Ex. Mind your p’s and q’s. Learn your abc’s.
These are the only times you should use an apostrophe.
But naturally, the English language being what it is, it is not so simple, so here is some clarification on common errors and exceptions.
*Do not use an apostrophe for a word that ends in s unless you are making it a possessive.
Ex. Our year-end sales were strong. The sale’s tomorrow.
*For family names that end in s, the correct form of the plural is es, and the possessive plural is es’.
Ex. I am friends with the Joneses. My daughter loves to play at the Joneses’ house.
*Do not use an apostrophe to make a regular noun or a name plural.
Ex. Incorrect: Apostrophe’s are not that confusing. Correct: Apostrophes are not that confusing. Incorrect: I know three Kim’s. Correct: I know three Kims.
*For possessive words ending in s (or z), you can use either an apostrophe alone or an apostrophe s. Both are correct, but be consistent in the form you use. Ex. Chris’ grades were fabulous last semester. Mr. Velasquez’s dog is named Spot.
*It’s = it is. Its is a possessive.
Ex. It’s a girl! Its name is Bob. Do not mix them up!!! Think of it this way: If you can substitute “it is,” use it’s. Easy, right?
I have seen this cartoon —->
in a number of places online, but I don’t know where it originated or I would attribute it. If anyone knows, please tell me. 🙂
Some links for more information:
An entire site devoted to apostrophes! www.badapostrophes.com
This fun quiz: http://chapterbreak.net/2015/03/04/celebrate-grammar-day-with-this-fun-grammar-nerd-quiz/ (My result, in case you were wondering, was “The Pedant’s Grammarian.” I assume no one is surprised.)
The Grammar Girl has many, many posts about the apostrophe, but here’s the first basic one: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/apostrophe-catastrophe-part-one (be sure to click through to the last page to find a lovely song about the apostrophe–who knew?)