Bridgetown Public Relations


The Writer’s Toolbox: Know Your Apostrophes

This is another one that we see all the time. Correct apostrophe use for plurals, possessives, and contractions.
Perhaps the most common apostrophe confusion involves both a contraction and a possessive: it’s versus its.
“It’s” is a contraction of “it is,” whereas “its” (no apostrophe) is the possessive, which is usually indicated by an apostrophe!
Where’s the dog’s toy? It’s put away in its place!
It’s (it is) put away in its (the dog’s toy, possessive) place.

Possessive pronouns

Apostrophes are used to indicate possession (the dog’s toy), and are made by adding ‘s. For plural possessives, (the dogs’ toy), add the apostrophe after the S to indicate that the object is possessed by plural subjects. With “the dogs’ toy” we’re indicating that multiple dogs share one toy, as opposed to “the dog’s toys” (one dog, multiple toys) or “the dogs’ toys” (multiple dogs with multiple toys.

Proper nouns ending in -s

Style guides differ, but in the AP style, we just add an apostrophe after a proper name, not ‘s.
“Annie Smith’s dog’s name is Puffin.” BUT, “The Smiths’ dog is a Golden Retriever.”
Annie Smith is singular, so we add the ‘s, but “The Smiths” ends in s, so we just tack the apostrophe on at the end.
Likewise, “Annie Isaacs has a calico cat. Ms. Isaacs’ cat is 11 years old.” “Isaacs” is singular, but since it ends in -s, just add the apostrophe afterwards.

No apostrophes with plurals

A very common error online is adding an apostrophe when pluralizing: “I don’t know where to put all these apostrophe’s!” Since we’re adding an -s at the end, it’s a common error to add an apostrophe along with it for good measure. However, this is incorrect. “I don’t know where to put all these apostrophes.” (No apostrophe for “apostrophes”)


Can’t, won’t, don’t, it’s, would’ve…
Contractions are more or less a transcription of spoken English. “She should’ve been here by now, I don’t know why she didn’t call.” It’s very rare for someone to say “She should have called by now, I do not know she did not call.”  They are more informal, and should probably be left out of more-professional writing.

As always, this is not an exhaustive grammatical lesson, but merely touching on the most common errors we see when writing, especially online.

Happy writing!