Get out the red pen

From the apple’s and orange’s at the fruit market, to the kid’s clothes at the department store, misplaced apostrophes are everywhere.

We all make the mistake from time to time.  While there are lots of exceptions to the apostrophe rules, and it can get rather confusing, the Apostrophe Protection Society (yes, there is one!) has some very clear guidelines.

The rules concerning the use of apostrophes in written English are very simple:

1.  They are used to denote a missing letter or letters, for example:

  • I can’t instead of I cannot
  • I don’t instead of I do not
  • it’s instead of it is

2.  They are used to denote possession, for example:

  • the dog’s bone
  • the company’s logo
  • Jamal’s bakery (but Jamals’ bakery if owned by more than one Jamal)

… but please note that the possessive form of it does not take an apostrophe any more than ours, yours or hers do: the bone is in its mouth.

… however, if there are two or more dogs, companies or Jamals in our example, the apostrophe comes after the ‘s’:

  • the dogs’ bones
  • the companies’ logos
  • Jamals’ bakeries

3. Apostrophes are NEVER ever used to denote plurals!  Common examples of such abuse (all seen in real life!) are:

  • Banana’s for sale (which of course should read Bananas for sale)
  • Menu’s printed to order (which should read Menus printed to order)
  • 1000’s of bargains here! (which should read 1000s of bargains here!)
  • New CD’s just in! (which should read New CDs just in!)
  • Buy your Xmas tree’s here! (which should read Buy your Xmas trees here!)
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