Using Apostrophes Correctly: A Post To Prove It’s Easy
It’s dangerous to appear as if you’re lecturing your readers.
So I’m usually not one to bitch and moan just to get things off my chest. But last week I went ballistic. Items were thrown and curses were spewed because of one thing that angers me every time I see it: Misused apostrophes.
The rules are simple—much easier to remember than most other grammar madness. Yet many of us throw apostrophes around so poorly that we show utter disrespect to our readers and allow ourselves to be seen as complete idiots.
The basics aren’t hard:
(1) Apostrophes are used for contractions and possessives, like “You’re reading David Amulet’s rant about apostrophes.” Note: Contractions can occur in numbers; my “Underappreciated ’80s” series of posts use the apostrophe because I’ve removed the “19” from the decade.
There is one key exception to this apostrophe/possessive rule ...
(2) It’s is a contraction for “it is” or “it has.” If you’re indicating possession and not saying “it is” or “it has,” use its—without the apostrophe. Both are used correctly here: “It’s David Amulet’s post about apostrophes that makes its points clearly.”
(3) Apostrophes are not used for plurals, except in odd cases where their absence creates combinations of letters that could be confused with words.
This can be seen in a sentence like “David Amulet received neither A’s nor B’s in English classes despite his apostrophe obsession.”
(4) Don’t rely on spell/grammar check; it’s often dead wrong on the use of it’s versus its. For example, Microsoft Word spurred me to change the “It’s” in the title to “its,” confirming that Microsoft is an evil hive of scum and villainy bent on destroying Western civilization.
Style maven Lynne Truss writes in her bestselling Eats, Shoots and Leaves that if you continue confusing it’s and its, “you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot, and buried in an unmarked grave.”
Thankfully, I’m not as manic as Ms. Truss about this.
But for your own sake, stop giving the impression you’re an ignorant ass-clown. Stop confusing it’s and its. Stop using apostrophes for plurals.
Consciously or subconsciously, readers tend to discount what you’re writing if its presentation is bad … so do yourself a big favor and take an extra three seconds when you’re posting to get the apostrophes right.
And don’t tell me it’s none of my business. It’s because I care.