29 October 2007

Apostrophes 101

" ' "

I can't stand it anymore. To everybody, everywhere:

Apostrophes do 1 of 2 things:

1. Denote possession
2. Denote contraction

Here's how you use them:

1. Possession:
  • If you possess it, and you don't have an S on your name, easy: [Pepper's broccoli].
  • If you possess it, and you have an S on your name, easy: [The Jones' broccoli].
    • TIP: [The Jones's brocolli] would be awkward. DBA [don't be awkward]. It's a plural possessive and should be [The Joneses' broccoli]. Except the Joneses hate broccoli.
  • Yours, His, Hers: already possessive. No apostrophe. Ever.
2. Contraction [i.e. two words (or a compound word) become one (or shorter)]:
  • Can + Not = "Cannot"; becomes [Can't]. The apostrophe symbolizes the contraction and disappearance of two letters.
  • "Is not" becomes [isn't]. The apostrophe symbolizes the contraction and disappearance of one letter.
3. Curveball:
  • [Its] is possessive but has no apostrophe. Why? Because:
  • [It's] was already taken, and is short for "It is".
    • Correct: It's difficult to use apostrophes.
    • Correct: Grammar--its importance should not be overlooked.
Don't ever do this:
  • Beaver's build dams.
  • Beavers' build dams.
  • If it ends in X or Z. But let's not open that can of worms.
Know it, use it, love it.

An addendum for Pete:

You + Are = You're

Your = possessive.

Example: You're loose unless you tighten your grammar.


Matt said...

And in pictures:

Help kill the Emo's

Pimp's and Hoe's

India: It's Culture

"Dont" Play with Fire

If you don't have a facebook account, it doesn't bother me that you can't access these.

Pepper said...

incredible. i always knew that india was more than merely a country

Ralph Bodenner said...

A sure sign that I'm old: I remember when you would never see apostrophe misuse in public. You know, on signs 'n stuff. Now hardly a day passes when I don't levitate briefly with grammarian rage upon spotting a coffee shop menu with "Today's Special's" on it.

Pete said...


Anonymous said...

Ah, but note Strunk & White regarding the possessive singular -

"For the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's. Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

Charles's friend

Burns's poems

the witch's malice"

Pepper said...

Strunk & White make a fine point, but until the plebes can master the basics, excepting a rule is far from my mind.

Pete said...

Strunk and White can blow me. Writing is going to be pointless in the future when we talk to our computers and they do everything for us.

mollie said...

for the love of god, thank you, pepper. i see that same mistake pete made more than any other. why is that one so difficult to master? (no offense, pete.)

also, i highly enjoy strunk & white and am an avid fan of their "charles's" rule. my thesis was full of references to "yeats's poetry," but i'm sure that would make some people's eyes bleed.