Today, we’ll be talking about apostrophes, when to use them with omitted letters and possessives, and which way they should face. A few simple rules will help you use apostrophes with confidence.
How to Use Apostrophes in Contractions
In contractions or partial words, the apostrophe takes the place of the missing letters.
they’re = they are
I’m = I am
It’s = it is
don’t = do not
wasn’t = was not
Unlike single quotation marks, apostrophes should always curve to the left.
Right: = them
Wrong: = them
Microsoft Word will always put in the apostrophe so that it curves toward the text, which, in the example above, would be the wrong way. The best way to fix these errors is to run a search and replace for words you know are in your book. For example, you could put ‘em into the Find box and ’em into the Replace box.
How to Use Apostrophes in Possessives
Apostrophes are also used in possessives. The basic rule is to add ’s, whether the noun is singular or plural.
The children’s book
One exception to adding ’s is with the word it. In this case, you do NOT include an apostrophe.
Right: Its book
Wrong: It’s book (this means “It is book” not that the book belong to “It.”)
When the noun ends in an s (and is singular), you still add an ’s.
For the name James:
Right: James’s book
Wrong: James’ book
The Chicago Manual of Style used to recommend omitting that extra “s” in the names of Biblical figures, such as Jesus and Moses, but it has since removed that exception for consistency’s sake. However, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, as well as several style guides, still recommends omitting the extra “s.”
Merriam-Webster: Jesus’ book.
Chicago: Jesus’s book.
For the word class:
Right: The class’s pet
Wrong: The class’ pet
When the noun ends in an s and is plural, you only add an apostrophe.
For the name Jones (the plural is Joneses, as in “The Joneses”):
Right: The Joneses’ place
Wrong: The Joneses’s place
For the word classes:
Right: The classes’ party
Wrong: The classes’s party
Apostrophes to Make Plurals
In general, apostrophes are not used to make plurals. One exception is when making single letters plural. (Note: other exceptions are when NOT using the apostrophe would make the sentence unclear.)
Right: Mind your p’s and q’s.
Wrong: Mind your ps and qs.
Right: There are two a’s in that word.
Wrong: There are two as in that word.