• Linda Ulleseit, author

  • NaNoWriMo!

Apostrophes

Lots of adults I know are as afraid of apostrophes as my students. They are constantly asking, “Does the apostrophe go before the ‘s’ on this one?” Some give up and never write possessively about any noun ending in s.  That is hard if your main character is Chris. You’d have to make him own absolutely nothing. Or, you could refer to his belongings as ‘the coat that belongs to Chris’ and annoy all your readers. I have a better suggestion. Why not learn, once and for all, where those dratted splots of ink go?

There are two uses for the apostrophe, to show possession and to form a contraction.

First, remember to never use an apostrophe for a plural noun. Plurals NEVER have apostrophes. There are two rules for possessives. ONE, put just an apostrophe by itself after a plural noun that ends in s. No extra s here, please! Example: The dogs’ bones are meaty. In this example, there are many dogs and they each have bones. TWO, put ‘s after everything else.  ALL singular nouns, whether they end in s or not, get an ‘s. Example: Chris’s dogs love the couch’s soft pillows. Here you have one Chris who owns many dogs. One couch has many pillows. Also, put ‘s after any plural noun that does NOT end in s. Example: The children’s friends enjoyed the mice’s soft fur. In this example, there are many children and many mice.

Second, you use apostrophes in contractions. The mistake here is that sometimes people change the spelling of the base word when they add the apostrophe. Remember that the apostrophe acts as a place holder for a letter that has been removed. For example, didn’t is a contraction of did not. You just smash the two words together and replace the o with an apostrophe. So must not becomes mustn’t, NEVER musn’t. You don’t change the spelling of must, you just replace the o with an apostrophe. (Yes, that’s don’t–do not–and that’s–that is).

AN EXCEPTION to the entire apostrophe world is it’s. Use it’s only when you want to say it is, never as a possessive. Example: It’s hard to separate a dog from its bone. Yes, you want to say It is hard..., so you use the contraction. The possessive form is without the apostrophe–its.

Try these:

1. I went to (Marcus’s/Marcus’) birthday party.

2. (It’s/Its) a fine day to be writing.

3. My three (dogs’/dog’s) tails are always wagging.

4. I willn’t/won’t give up easily.    *Hint: This one’s tricky.

5. My Math (book’s/books’) cover is torn.

Post your answers as a comment!

On my Kindle: Shaxoa’s Gift by DelSheree Gladden

*Okay, this was evil of me.  Willn’t is not a word.  It’s won’t. Don’t use willn’t. It will cause your English teacher’s eyes to roll back in her head, and she might stop breathing and fall on the floor, her face purple with rage. That’s not pretty.

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