Posted by: Jack Henry | October 3, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Apostrophes

Hello from beautiful, sunny San Diego.

Today’s topic is apostrophes: I’ll explain the two main uses and some common errors. If you’ve got your seatbelt fastened, let’s go.

There are two main uses for apostrophes:

· To indicate an omission (it could be letters or numbers that you’re leaving out). The most common omissions occur when we drop letters to form contractions (can’t for cannot, shouldn’t for should not, etc.)

· To show possession

You want examples? I’ve got your examples right here:


Don’t you agree that Nirvana was one of the most influential bands of the ‘90s?

The apostrophe in don’t replaces the missing “o” in not,and the apostrophe in ‘90s replaces “19.” Note that there is no apostrophe before the “s” at the end of 1990s. That’s one of the common mistakes that I’ll get to in a minute.

Kurt Cobain’s death was a heavy blow, not only to grunge music, but to rock music in general.

Apostrophes in contractions are pretty clear cut, so not much needs to be said about them, but there is one common mistake that I’ll cover: it’s vs. its.

It’s is a contraction (short for it is or it has) and its is possessive (belongs to it). Most possessives have apostrophes so why doesn’t its? There are a couple of reasons. First, we need to be able to differentiate the contraction (it’s) from the possessive (its), so they can’t both have apostrophes. Second, some other possessives do not have apostrophes (hers, his, theirs), so it makes sense that the possessive its does not have an apostrophe. I hope that helps you remember which word gets the apostrophe.

Here are examples of the correct use of it’s and its:

  • It’s my turn to pick the music we listen to in the car on the way home.
  • The stereo in my car is on its last leg.

Another common mistake people make is to add an apostrophe when dealing with plural abbreviations like PINs, ATMs, IRAs. You should not add an apostrophe when you are pluralizing abbreviations.

And a similar mistake people make is to add an apostrophe for plural words (they’ll say they love dog’s instead of dogs) or when pluralizing a family surname like Brown. I’ve seen many envelopes erroneously addressed to the Brown’s rather than the Browns. Since you are sending the card to more than one person in the Brown family, you add an “s” to make the name plural but you do not need an apostrophe.

Here are some correct examples of how to use apostrophes in surnames:

  • Let’s be sure to invite the Browns over for dinner soon.
  • Bridgette Brown’s daughter is about to graduate from Harvard.

And now, for your edification and viewing pleasure, here are a few epic fails:

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

Did someone forward this email to you? Click here to subscribe.

Don’t want to get Editor’s Corner anymore? Click here to unsubscribe.

Do you have a question or an idea for Editor’s Corner? Send your suggestions or feedback to Kara or <a href="mailto:DBurcher.

NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
exclusively for the individual or entity to which it is addressed. The message,
together with any attachment, may contain confidential and/or privileged information.
Any unauthorized review, use, printing, saving, copying, disclosure or distribution
is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
immediately advise the sender by reply email and delete all copies.


  1. […] I remember that surprising me because, as we’ve pointed out numerous times, there are only two main uses for apostrophes: to show omission and to show […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: