The Oxbridge Editing Blog 23rd January 2024

Apostrophe Uses: Rules and Examples

23rd January 2024
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The humble apostrophe, a small punctuation mark with significant impact, often proves to be a source of confusion for many in the English language. In this comprehensive guide, we will unravel the main apostrophe rules and provide examples to help you use this punctuation mark with confidence in your written communication.

Possession: The Apostrophe’s Primary Purpose

One of the fundamental roles of the apostrophe is to indicate possession. When a noun—whether singular or plural—owns something, the apostrophe plays a crucial role in clarifying the relationship.

Singular Possession: Add an apostrophe followed by an ‘s’ to the singular noun.

Example: The cat’s whiskers are quite sensitive.

Plural Possession: For plural nouns ending in ‘s,’ simply add an apostrophe after the ‘s.’ For irregular plurals without an ‘s,’ follow the same rule as singular possession.

Example 1: The students’ essays were impressive.

Example 2: The children’s toys were scattered across the room.

Contractions: Merging Words with Apostrophes

Contractions involve merging two words into one, usually by removing certain letters and replacing them with an apostrophe. These are commonly used in informal writing and dialogue.

Combining ‘is’ or ‘has’:

Example 1: She’s (she is) always on time.

Example 2: He’s (he has) been working hard.

Combining ‘would’ or ‘have’:

Example 1: They would’ve (would have) finished the project by now.

Example 2: I should’ve (should have) known better.

Pluralising Letters, Numbers, and Words Ending in ‘s’

When pluralising single letters, numbers, or words ending in ‘s,’ an apostrophe helps maintain clarity and avoid confusion.

Pluralising Single Letters or Numbers:

Example 1: Mind your p’s and q’s.

Example 2: The 1990s witnessed significant change.

Pluralising Words Ending in ‘s’:

Example 1: The Joneses invited us for dinner.

Example 2: The class’s enthusiasm was contagious.

Avoiding Ambiguity: Apostrophes with Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns already indicate ownership, so they don’t require an additional apostrophe.

Example 1: That book is hers.

Example 2: The decision is yours.

Apostrophes in Joint Ownership

When two or more people share ownership of an object, the apostrophe placement can be a bit tricky.

Joint Ownership with Singular Nouns:

Example: Mary and John’s wedding was a beautiful ceremony.

Joint Ownership with Plural Nouns:

Example: The Smiths’ new car is parked in the driveway.

Apostrophe Rules Made Easy

Mastering apostrophe rules enhances your written communication, providing clarity and precision. By understanding when and how to use apostrophes, you elevate your writing skills and contribute to effective and accurate expression in the English language.

Ready to polish your academic writing skills and master the art of apostrophes? Let our experienced editors provide constructive feedback, guiding you on the nuances of punctuation, grammar, and style. With each edit, you’ll not only refine your current work but also gain valuable insights that empower you to write with greater proficiency in the future.