How to use the apostrophe ?

The apostrophe is the most misused punctuation mark in the English language by far, but this should not be the case since there are only two major uses of the apostrophe:

  • To indicate a contraction which is a form of word in which one or more letters are omitted
  • [it’s instead of it is or aren’t instead of are not]

  • To indicate possession
  • [Roger’s web site]

    Note 1: The first use of the apostrophe should usually be avoided in formal writing.

    Note 2: The second use of the apostrophe involves placing the apostrophe at the end of the word when the word is plural and ends in ‘s’ [workers’ rights].

    Other uses of apostrophe are:

    1. To form the possessive case of a singular noun, add an apostrophe and an s. Examples: Bob’s car; One’s home. If the addition of an “s” produces an awkward sound, add only the apostrophe. Usually, this is when there is already a double “s” sound. Examples: Moses’; for old times’ sake; for goodness’ sake.

    2. To form the possessive case of a plural noun, add an apostrophe after the s. Example: girls’ teams. If the plural form of the word does not end in s, add an apostrophe and an s. Example: women’s team.

    3. Use an apostrophe to show where letters have been omitted in a contraction. Examples: can’t = cannot; it’s = it is.

    Note 3: There are three very common misuses of the apostrophe.

  • The most frequent misuse is in writing plural forms, especially in signs and notices, but it is totally wrong to write pizza’s or CD’s or even in English English 1990’s (this is the usage in American English).
  • The second misuse, which is almost as common, is it’s instead of its to indicate possession [It’s wrong to hit its head].
  • The final misuse involves confusion between ‘who’s’ which is an abbreviation of ‘who is’ [the man who’s coming to visit] and ‘whose’ which shows possession [the man whose house is over there].

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