Posted by: Jack Henry | May 28, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Apostrophe Reminders

We’ve talked about apostrophes before, but I like the way this article acts as a quick reminder of how they should be used. The full article is available at Daily Writing Tips.

Marking Possessives
Apostrophes are employed in conjunction with the possessive s, as shown in the following examples:

  • singular common nouns: “the farmer’s daughter”
  • singular proper nouns that end in s: “Chris’ job” or “Chris’s job” [KC – We use the
    Chicago Manual of Style which dictates we use the extra “s” after the apostrophe. Not my favorite, but that’s the rule.]
  • plural common nouns: “the farmers’ daughters”
  • plural common nouns that end in s: “the dogs’ bowls”
  • plural proper nouns ending in s: “the Thompsons’ party” (no s at the end of the name); “the Simmonses’ car” (s at the end of the name) [KC – And yes, the rules for singular and plural proper nouns are different. Fie on you, English!]
  • compound words: “mother-in-law’s tongue”
  • separate possession: “John’s and Jane’s houses”
  • joint possession: “John and Jane’s house”

Apostrophes mark elision [KC – omission] of one or more letters or numbers, as shown in the following examples:

  • don’t (“do not”)
  • o’clock (“of the clock”)
  • c’mon (“come on”)
  • let’s (“let us”)
  • l’il (little)
  • OK’d (in place of OKed)
  • will-o’-the-wisp (will-of-the-wisp)
  • “rock ’n’ roll” (“rock and roll”)
  • f’c’stle (forecastle) [KC – Yeah, because I’m always too busy to say the entire word
  • O’Hara (“of the Hara,” from Gaelic Eaghra)
  • ’60s (1960s)

Plurals of Individual Characters
An exception is made for using possessives to indicate plurals of lowercase letters, as in “Mind your p’s and q’s,” “Label the x’s and y’s,” and “There are two m’s in accommodate.”

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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