Monday, September 18, 2017

Solving Apostrophe Issues

What trips you up when editing? I find that apostrophes with unusual circumstances can slow me down. The apostrophe's use with contractions is a given, of course, but for certain questionable instances, I use a cheat sheet. I created it for my teen writing students, and refer to it as necessary. Maybe it will be of use to you too:

General apostrophe guidelines:

  • 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 '07.

Special possessive situations:

Remember that the owner is the word immediately before the apostrophe. It helps to consider, is it possessive or plural, or is it possessive and singular, or possessive and plural, then follow these guidelines:

  • 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)
And don't forget:
Do not use an apostrophe for possessive pronouns: its, yours, ours, his, hers, their

What grammar issues slow you down? Does anyone else cringe when they see the apostrophe misused in advertising? Or maybe that's just me...? 

How was your summer? What are you writing this week? Does it look like fall in your area? Hope you all are doing well! :)

Happy writing,


Image credit: Pixabay


  1. Thanks for the tips. I have to watch them and commas in my writing all the time.

  2. Good tips and reminders. There's also the issue when someone's name ends in s. I usually just put an apostrophe after it without another s.

  3. Natalie,
    I often use too many commas as well. Don't always realize til I'm editing. :) Appreciate you stopping by!

    That's an excellent point! I need to add that to the cheat sheet. :) Thanks for the suggestion and for swinging by to see us.

    Happy writing,

  4. Hi Karen...
    Glad you had a good blog break.
    Apostrophes can definitely slow me down....especially the plural of children....I do hate to see "it's" when it is supposed to be "its." That bugs me whether it is in advertising or notes or blog posts.
    The summer was great, filled with lots of experiences, plays, and a delightful stay at the ocean.
    It's started to look a little bit like fall with slight tinges on the trees but in a couple of weeks, the whole area will explode with spectacular color.
    Writing in journals, on my blog and for a weekly newspaper. That's enough. ha haha Susan

  5. Hi Karen! Welcome back from your break! I hope you had a great time :)
    I often sit back and look at my written words and wonder...did I use that apostrophe correctly? Sometimes I'll even 'google' it. Your outline here is much better. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise!

  6. Hi Karen - welcome back ... and apostrophes are a nightmare - I hate poorly written work - I'm sure mine is terrible at times - this isn't that grammarly right is it!!! Your, or You're ... there and their ... and it's when it is its ...

    Cheers and here we go into Autumn ... love the colours ... but not the descent into cold! All the best - Hilary

  7. Nice to see you again, Karen. Always love your writing advice. My grammar problem is word repeats. It's amazing how many times I'll use the same word in just two paragraphs! Then I have to think of a similar word to replaced it with. Just ended a sentence with a preposition, didn't I? =0)

  8. Someone using it wrong in an ad is unforgivable. How many people looked at it and no one caught it?

  9. Susan,
    It sounds like you had a wonderful summer! Autumn sounds promising for you as well. I'm sure you are enjoying those grandchildren too! :) Thanks for coming over today!

    I do a lot of that sitting back and looking at my writing too. Matter of fact, did it with an email the other day. Then later read it and saw a typo. Go figure! lol Thanks so much for your kind support. :)

    Thank you! :) I'm thinking this grammar stuff keeps us on our toes, right? For the record, I've not seen any errors at your site. Loving the coming of autumn here too. All the best to you too!

    Susan S.,
    Thanks so much. :) I can do that too - repeating words in close proximity. I guess we're too close to it when writing, you think? I just read where ending a sentence with a preposition is no longer unacceptable, that the thinking is strictly old school. So you're okay!

    I agree! Yet we see it all the time. And it's one of the easier fixes, I'm thinking.

    Happy writing,

  10. The indefinite pronoun has tripped me up before. Thanks for the tips!

  11. Great review, Karen--and welcome back. Hope your blog break was refreshing :-) And a misplaced apostrophe really does bug me, I see examples lots of places! A bad influence--hopefully I can resist falling into the same sloppy habits! As for summer, it was good but went too fast...

  12. Holly,
    Oh yes, they can be tricky, can't they? :) You are most welcome!

    Summer did roll on by, didn't it? But I am looking forward to fall weather. Had a nice reprieve from the heat the last few weeks, but Indian summer is here now. :)

    Happy writing,

  13. Great tips. It can be tricky for the best of us. I can see how it's needed in A's and B's, but not for longer letter groups, as in that advertising you mentioned - like "DVD's for sale". What, only one? Definitely infuriating!

  14. Ha! This is exactly why I hire an editor. Commas and apostrophes and viable enemies.

  15. Nick,
    That's another good point. So many rules to follow! Oh well, it makes us better writers, right? :)

    You are one smart writer, knowing when to avail yourself of great resources. We have the tools, so why not use them, yes?

    Happy writing,

  16. Karen: I have done my usual tasks, blog and column. Plus, I have rescheduled the two book signings I had to cancel. Been under the weather lately. I have to finish a display board for the signings. We are celebrating Hubby's birthday this weekend and I need to spend time straightening up our house.


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!