Monday, August 10, 2015

Apostrophes & Possessives



Do apostrophes or possessives trip you up? If you're like me, an occasional refresher is helpful. The apostrophe's basic function is easy, but there are other uses such as:

  • To form a plural of a letter: I got all A's and B's.
  • To form a plural of a number or symbol: 6's or %'s
  • When a word is discussed as a word: The sentence contains too many hey's and dude's.
  • To abbreviate a year: She graduated in '03.

Possessives get tricky too. It helps to remember that the "owner" is the word immediately before the apostrophe. Ask, is it possessive or plural, or is it possessive and singular, or possessive and plural? Then use the apostrophe like so:


  • Singular versus plural possession: the horse's trainer, the horses' trainer
  • Compound word possessives: editor in chief's office, sister in law's birthday
  • Plural compound word possessives: brothers in law's cars (more than one brother in law)
  • For an indefinite pronoun: anyone's guess, everybody's favorite
  • Individual possession: Micah's, Allie's, and Nat's books (they each own their own book)
  • Shared possession: Tim, David, and Becky's book (they all own the same book)
 
Then, don't forget:  

  • Do not use an apostrophe for possessive pronouns: its, yours, ours, his, hers, their

Do apostrophes or possessives challenge you? What helps keep things straight?

Happy writing,

Karen



Photo credit: Free Images

24 comments :

  1. I struggle with shared possessives. Never feel sure about it.

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  2. I usually get them correct, but I see them used incorrectly all the time.

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  3. Isn't it amazing how such a little mark can be so important to the meaning!

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  4. Amigo, they trip me up in the worst kind of way. Thank you for this. But is it kids or kids' and how are those two words different? HELLPPPP! :-) xoxoxo

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  5. Hi Karen! There is one situation that always gives me pause, and it's when to use the apostrophe after the name of someone to denote a possession of theirs. Like James' clothes (I don't write it like 'Jameses'), but I wonder if that's correct? Or should it be James's?
    Sometimes grammar is so challenging!!
    Ceil

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  6. Misha,
    Shared possessives trip me up too. I often check to make sure I have it right! :)

    Alex,
    I think the more we use them, the more it becomes natural, you know? And yes, I see their misuse all the time, even in our local paper. :)

    Lee,
    You are so right! It's like the thing you see on Facebook -"Let's eat Grandma" or "Let's eat, Grandma". Punctuation can make a huge difference! :)

    Robyn,
    I hear you, amigo! :) You are welcome.As for"kids or kids'" it depends on how you use it, you know? And this is why we have The Elements of Style to refer to, I'm thinking.

    Ceil,
    The Elements of Style says to use an apostrophe s no matter what the ending letter is. Strunk and White further say that the exceptions are ancient proper names ending in es or is, or in the case of Jesus'. Technically James is an ancient as well as a current name, and I can see where it would be both James' and James's. I would probably use whatever version an editor prefers in this case. Thanks for making me think today! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  7. Karen: This is a good refresher course.I get confused with the popssessive pronouns. Thanks for clearing that up for us.

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  8. The one that always catches me up is when a word ends in "s". I always thought, "The Jones' house," was correct, but I recently read that unless the noun is plural---as in churches'---it is acceptable to add the extra s, i.e. The Jones's because Jones refers to a single family, not a plural. Now I question myself whenever I come to that situation.

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  9. Cecelia,
    You are welcome - glad to offer tips that help me. :) We're always growing as writers, aren't we?

    Lisa,
    I hear you! I question myself too about this and other little grammar issues. :) One of these days we'll be experts, right? Lol

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  10. Happy writing indeed, thanks for this lesson Karen, I'll print it! Much need for such things :)

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  11. I teach writing and I still have to look up the list type possessives like Becky and Ron's min-van.

    And, thanks for the helpful tips you always add to your blog posts!

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  12. Marja,
    You are welcome! Glad you found it helpful. I have need of such things as well. :)

    Tyrean,
    I hear you - I teach writing too and sometimes must double check some of these things. Teaching has helped me learn a lot. :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  13. Great review, Karen--thanks! I don't normally have a problem with this but I'm seeing it more from others. I hesitate to correct them, though. Maybe I need to send them this link!

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  14. I know these, but I mess up in the heat of writing a draft. This is a great reminder.

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  15. Kenda,
    Thank you, and you're welcome! :) I hear you, sometimes I play grammar police in my head because I hesitate to say something too. And then, I often remember how I slip up on occasion. lol

    Medeia,
    I do the same thing when writing a draft. :) Often to my horror, lol. Ah well, that is what the editing stage is for, right?

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  16. Thanks for the tutorial, Karen. I'm sharing this in a Facebook group. :)

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  17. I love your writing lessons. We all need a refresher now and then. Have a great weekend, my friend. =0)

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  18. Susan R.,
    You are welcome.Thanks so much for sharing the link! :) Much appreciated.

    Susan S.,
    Aww, you are so sweet! :) I know I need a refresher every so often. Happy weekend to you too!

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  20. My gym has 'womens' and 'mens' on the washroom doors. Drives me crazy! Thank you for the refresher. I still make mistakes from time to time, or have to look up the rule in Strunk and White's guide for grammar.

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  21. Lynn,
    Gotta love those grammar mistakes, right? It's one thing to make an error and even not catch it before it's published in a post or article, but another to see it on a permanent sign. :)
    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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  22. Thanks for the refresher, Karen. I do fine with possessives, but apostrophes sometimes stymie me. I bought a great book by Kathy Ide, Proofreading Secrets of Best-selling Authors, that I'm sure will help.

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  23. Jen,
    You are welcome. I have to stop and think about the plural possessives sometimes.Will have to check out that book. Thanks for the tip! :)
    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  24. For along time its through me off, but I have it under control now. :) I do get stumped about using apostrophes with numbers or letters. I can never remember what to do. Thanks for a refresher. :)
    ~Jess

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!