One of my pet peeves is the incorrect use of apostrophes. People leave them out when they should use them, then sprinkle them willy-nilly where they have no business being.
Every time I see a big sign that says “BOOK’S” I cringe.
Although apostrophe errors are common, improper use of apostrophes will mark you as an inexperienced and uninformed writer to those who understand proper usage—such as editors at mystery shopping companies. The proper use of apostrophes will help you get better scores on your mystery shopper reports.
Here are some simple tips that will help you remember how to use apostrophes in your writing—and how not to use them.
With just a few exceptions, apostrophes are not used to indicate plurals. That means that these would be incorrect:
You can rent two movie’s for $5.
Both dog’s were wearing blue collars.
The correct versions would be:
You can rent two movies for $5.
Both dogs were wearing blue collars.
There is some disagreement about this, but there are a couple of possible exceptions. One is when the plural is of an abbreviation that includes internal punctuation or capitalization. For example, according to the Chicago Manual of Style, M.D.’s would be correct, as would PhD’s, when referring to more than one M.D. or PhD. Another exception is for the plural of a single letter, such as “cross your t’s.”
Apostrophes are used in contractions, to represent the letters removed. For example:
can not = can’t
do not = don’t
you have = you’ve
we are = we’re
it is = it’s
will not = won’t
That last one is a little confusing—the “will” becomes “wo”—but it is correct.
Apostrophes are used to show possession.
Stan’s car is in the driveway.
The purse is Mary’s.
Apostrophes are not used in possessive forms of pronouns, such as his, hers, theirs, ours, yours and its. A common error is to put an apostrophe in “its.” The only time it is correct to use “it’s” is when it is the contraction of “it is,” never for the possessive form. The following are correct:
It’s too hot to wear a sweater.
The dog chewed its toy.
The good news is that you now know the right way to use apostrophes. The bad news is that all those people misusing them will make you as crazy as they make me!