Grant’s question: “When does one place the apostrophe before the ‘s’ and when is it placed after the ‘s’?”
BizWritingTip response: An apostrophe with a noun indicates both possession and the number involved. In other words, if the apostrophe is placed inside the “s,” there is only one item that possesses something. If the apostrophe is placed outside the “s,” there is more than one entity possessing the next word.
Department’s computers (one department has computers)
Departments’ computers (many departments have computers)
Alison’s comment: “What I am noticing more and more, is people using apostrophes incorrectly. For example, they add apostrophes with plural nouns, e.g., ‘Fee’s will be increased in 2013.’ It is so wrong.”
BizWritingTip response: I have noticed this also. Never put an apostrophe with a word unless you wish to indicate possession or a missing letter or letters.
Fees will be increased in 2013. (There would not be an apostrophe here. “Fees” is merely a plural word. There are no missing letters nor is the word possessive.)
The company’s fees will be increased in 2013. (Company has an apostrophe because it possesses the fees.)
It’s time we left. (The apostrophe appears with “it” to indicate the missing letter “i.” The sentence really reads it is time we left.
Note: The pronoun Its is “born possessive.” Never place an apostrophe with this word to indicate possession. The word itself indicates possession.
The company must protect its assets.