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desk frustrationI have a special fondness for apostrophes.  I have spoken about them on radio – take a moment to listen to the recording on the home page here.    I have championed them when they were in danger of deletion.  I ask you to save Aunt Em from the ‘twitch’ when they are abused.

They are surely the most misused punctuation mark of all time!

There are only two places where apostrophes are relevant, meaningful and correct.

1         Contraction/deletion

2         Possession


1   Contraction

This is where the humble apostrophe signifies that one or more letters has been left out of a compound word.


would not           wouldn’t

did not                 didn’t  

are not                 aren’t

is not                     isn’t

little                       lil’ (colloquial use – of course)

it is                         it’s

2       Possession

The rule that applies here is that the apostrophe is placed after the last letter of the word that is doing the possessing and before the final s.


Dog’s bowl

James’s hat

Children’s books

You will notice that one example you may have been expecting is not there!


Its is a personal pronoun signifying possession.   Please do not confuse it with it’s from the examples listed in contraction above.

The dog preferred to eat from its own bowl. 

By using it’s in this sentence – you are changing the meaning to nonsense.

The dog preferred to eat from it is own bowl.

Read this out loud and you will understand.  Do you agree?

The final and probably most important point to be made about apostrophes is where they DON’T belong!

Plurals (more than one item) and words that end in ‘s’ DO NOT automatically need an apostrophe before the  final ‘s’.

Videos means more than one video – video’s means the video owns something.

Potatoes mean more than one potato – potatoe’s means nothing really – potoatoe is not the correct form of the word in any case.

City’s means the city possess something – city’s streets are paved with gold

Cities is the correct form for more than one city.


Please be aware that your writing (including spelling, grammar and punctuation) says a lot about you to your readers from the very first sentence they see.

I would be interested in hearing your pet twitches or indeed welcome any queries you have about the correct form to use in your writing.


Until next time.  How about a discussion of nouns and pronouns?


Aunt Em













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