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Apostrophes

Apostrophes (Part 4)

In contractions, an apostrophe normally replaces omitted letters. Examples: don't, can't, won't, shouldn't, wouldn't. Other examples are: singin', 'tis, and rock 'n' roll. Some contractions, such as won't or ain't, are formed irregularly. Colloquialisms such as gonna and wanna take no apostrophe since there is no place for one.

To avoid confusion, lowercase letters form the plural with an apostrophe and an “s.” Example: x's and y's.

In informal writing the first two digits of a particular year are often replaced by an apostrophe. Example: the class of '62.

Whenever you are using an apostrophe, be sure to use the symbol for an apostrophe and not use the symbol for a single quotation mark. They are different: ( “ ' ” vs. “ ’ ”).

This concludes the four-part series on apostrophes.

Susan Titus Osborn's blog

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Apostrophes (Part 3)

In compound nouns and noun phrases the final element usually takes the possessive form. If plural compounds pose a problem, use “of.” Examples: a cookbook's recipes my daughter-in-law's profession, but the professions of both my daughters-in-law.

In proper names or where there is no clear possessive meaning, the apostrophe is omitted. Examples: Publishers Weekly, CLASS Christian Writers Conference, Department of Veterans Affairs, a housewares sale.

When neither an “s” nor an apostrophe alone look right, avoid the possessive and use “of” instead. Example: For the love of Jesus.

Possessives, such as hers, yours, and its, have no apostrophe. Example: The dog scratched its fleas. “It's” is the contraction for it is. Example: It's going to rain today.

Susan Titus Osborn's blog

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Apostrophes (Part 2)

Exceptions to the rule of adding an apostrophe “s” for the possessive form are the possessives of ancient proper names ending in “s.” Examples: Moses’ Law, Jesus’ parables, Euripides' tragedies, Xerxes' armies.

To avoid an awkward appearance, an apostrophe without an “s” may also be used for the possessive of singular words and names ending in an unpronounced “s.” Examples:

Albert Camus' novels, Descartes' three dreams, Vaucouleurs' assistance to Joan of Arc.

For … sake expressions traditionally omit the “s” when the noun ends in an “s” or “s” sound. Examples: for righteousness' sake, for goodness’ sake, for Jesus' sake.

Closely linked nouns are considered a single unit in forming the possessive when the entity possessed is the same for both. Only the second element takes the possessive form. Example: my aunt and uncle's house. When the entities are different, both nouns take the possessive form. Example: my friends' and neighbors' children.

Susan Titus Osborn's blog

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Apostrophes (Part 1)

The possessive of most singular nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe and an “s.” The possessive of plural nouns (except for a few irregular plurals that do not end in “s”) is formed by adding an apostrophe only. Examples: the horse's mouth, a bass’s stripes, puppies' paws, children's literature.

This general rule covers most proper nouns, including names ending in “s,” “x,” or “z,” and both are singular and plural forms, as well as letters and numbers. Examples: Chicago's lakefront, Massachusetts's legislature, Burns's poems, Marx's theories, Berlioz's works, the Lincolns' marriage, FDR's legacy, 2003's heaviest storm.

When the singular form of the noun ending in “s” looks like the plural, and the plural form is the same as the singular, the possessive of both singular and plural is formed by adding only an apostrophe. Examples: politics' true meaning, economics' forerunners, this species' earliest record.

The same rule applies when the name of a place or an organization is the plural form ending in “s,” such as the United States, even though the entity is singular. Examples: the United States' role in world peace, Marvin Gardens' former curator, Greenwood Hills' last mayor.

Susan Titus Osborn's blog

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