Monday, November 24, 2008

Editing Tip of the Week: Every Apostrophe in its Place

Every apostrophe has its place. But so many are lost or misguided. Mistakes are so abundant that there is even a photo group on the Flickr Web site documenting them. A common mistake is to use an apostrophe for plurals. Often referred to as the grocer’s apostrophe, you might have seen this misuse on signs at the grocery store or coffee shop that advertise apple’s for sale or delicious afternoon snack’s. Both of those apostrophes should have been left out. Well, then where do they go?

The three main uses of apostrophes are to indicate possessives of nouns, to form contractions, and sometimes to indicate time and measurement. I found a helpful hint on Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab to remember the first use: to figure out if you need to turn a phrase into a possessive, turn the phrase into an of the phrase. Using this tip, the phrase the man’s briefcase turns into the briefcase of the man.

Confusion between the use of it’s versus its also results in many mistakes. With the apostrophe, it’s is the contraction it is. Without the apostrophe, its is a possessive pronoun, like hers and his, and does not need an apostrophe.

With dates and time periods, keep in mind the idea of contractions. An apostrophe stands in place of the omitted letters. To shorten the year 2008, it would read as '08.

Shorten the number of apostrophes that are out of place. The next time you’re writing and an apostrophe is hanging in the balance, check to see if your use of it will match any of the three uses mentioned above.

Check suggestions on or

No comments:

Post a Comment