Apostrophes are those cute little punctuation marks we often place in our writing because we forget to hit the shift key when trying to type a quotation mark. Oh, that’s just me who has that problem?
Okay, so apostrophes are the punctuation mark which looks like a single quotation mark and are used to show possession. However, using them often leads to one of the more common grammatical errors.
This happens most often when writers confuse a possessive noun with a plural one.
Okay, not that kind of possessive, but a noun that indicates possession or ownership such as “It was the raccoon’s dinner,” as opposed to “There were raccoons eating dinner out of my backpack.” In the first instance, we need an apostrophe because the dinner belonged to the raccoon. In the second one, we don’t. We are stating that more than one raccoon was actually eating what was supposed to be my dinner. We want to make the noun (raccoon) plural.
Here are some tidy tips to help you see if you are using apostrophes correctly in your writing:
1. If a noun ends in -s but it is not also showing possession, then you don’t need an apostrophe.
2. If a noun is singular (dog) or it is plural but doesn’t end in -s (children), you need to add -‘s to the end of the word to show possession.
3. The exception to this rule is the freaky it. With just about every other word in the English language, the -‘s ending indicates possession and a simple -s ending with no apostrophe means it’s a plural noun. We just said that, right? And then along comes the word it which doesn’t feel the need to be constrained by such boring rules of grammar. Ugh. Adding -s to it makes it possessive and adding -‘s means you are using the contraction for the phrase it is.
4. If a plural noun ends in -s, then you add the apostrophe after the -s.
These should help you keep your apostrophes in check. And, if you want to keep the raccoons out of your backpack, be sure to hang it from a high branch when in the back country.