Grammar Tip – Apostrophes

Russ’s question: “My manager just told me I am not using apostrophes in the right place. I believe I was taught to add them whenever a word ends in ‘s.’ But she says this is wrong.”

BizWritingTip’s response: I have noticed this grammar problem a lot lately: apostrophes being misused and abused. Apostrophes have two uses. First, they indicate a missing letter or letters.

Examples
Can’t versus cannot
It’s versus it is

Second, they replace the word “of” thereby showing possession.

Example
In today’s business world (the business world of today)
Over 15 years’ experience (the experience of 15 years)
The firm’s assets (the assets of the firm)

The trick is where you place the apostrophe. It changes depending on what you are trying to say. Inside the “s” means there is only one item — outside the “s” means there are several items.

Examples
The firm’s assets (the assets of one firm)
The firms’ assets (the assets of more than one firm)

Note: Do not use an apostrophe if there is no possession involved.

Example (incorrect)
I have designed websites for all the clubs’ I have managed. (An apostrophe after clubs is wrong because no letters have been omitted and there is no possession.)

Example (correct)
I have designed websites for all the clubs I have managed.

2 replies
  1. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    We are putting a sign up at our cottage. It is a family cottage. I want to be sure I am putting the apostrophe in the correct place to show the cottage belongs to the entire family. This is how I believe it should be done:

    The Newmans’

    Please confirm. Thanks

    Reply
    • Jane Watson
      Jane Watson says:

      If you are trying to indicate that all the Newmans own the cottage, use the apostrophe. If you wish to indicate that the cottage is for the Newmans, then no apostrophe. Happy “cottaging”!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *