6 Different (In)Correct Ways to Use the Apostrophe

I am not the grammar police. I am not the spelling police. When I see grammatical or spelling errors, I don’t usually say anything unless I really can’t understand what the author is trying to say.That’s not to say that I don’t notice them. I notice them all the time. I don’t call them out on it because it really isn’t my place to. People don’t like to be told they might be wrong. People judge me, and I judge them. The difference is I do it silently.On that note, I bring you the six different ways to use the apostrophe correctly, and one way it is used when it shouldn’t be.Apostrophe UsageThis made my number one because people just don’t know the rules. When people have a dialog, the sounds the words make are identical. On paper, I find that people don’t know where or how to use it. When used correctly, apostrophes are used in six different ways. I also include one where the apostrophe is commonly used when it shouldn’t be.The first way is to show possession.• Incorrect: The bike is Dougs.• Incorrect: The bike is Dougs’.• Correct: The bike is Doug’s.The second way is show that there is more than one possessor.• Sentence one: The bike belongs to the boys.• Sentence two: That is the boy’s bike.

• Sentence three: That is the boys’ bike.All three sentences are correct. The first one doesn’t contain an apostrophe. The second one says that the bike belongs to one boy. The third says the bike belongs to more than one boy.The third way is to show plurality. This cardinal rule is in effect when the possessor’s name ends with the letter ‘s’. When this happens, we place the apostrophe outside the name rather than the inside to show possession.• Incorrect: That is Thomas’s bike.• Correct: That is Thomas’ bike.The fourth way is when we use contractions. A contraction is a shortened form of one or two words, one of which is usually a verb. Examples include:• Can not makes can’t• Will not makes won’t• Do not makes don’t• They are makes they’reThe fifth way is probably the least understood rule when it comes to apostrophes. It concerns the contraction “it is”. When is it is appropriate to use “its” and when should you use “it’s” instead?Rule: “it’s” is a contraction. It combines “it” and “is”. The easiest way to get this one right is to say the sentence in your head without the contraction.• Incorrect: Its a bad idea.• Correct: It’s a bad idea.The reason why the second example is correct is because I can say this same sentence by saying this: it is a bad idea. This is a difficult one because of the earlier rule of using an apostrophe to show possession. When we show possession using “it” as the pronoun, we don’t use the apostrophe.• Incorrect: The school needs to update it’s online schedule.• Correct: The school needs to update its online schedule.The rule remains the same; as we write the sentence, sound it out. Is it proper to say, “The school needs to update it is online schedule”? I would say not. Therefore, no apostrophe is used.The sixth way apostrophes are used incorrectly concerns the writer’s voice. The voice we use when writing will depend on what we are writing or who we are writing for. The audience or the type of piece will tell us whether or not it’s okay to use apostrophes. In this article, I’m trying to be conversational and relaxed. This is a dry topic, and if I bore my readers, they won’t read what I write. Therefore, it’s appropriate for me to use contractions, which is what I’m doing. If I were writing a formal piece, like a business proposal or a grant, I wouldn’t want to use contractions. In these pieces, I would spell out each word, even if it sounds wordy. I would use “do not” instead of “don’t”. The exception to this rule is if the contraction is within quotes.

The last way illustrates the one of the most common ways apostrophes are used incorrectly. Once again, it deals with plurality.• Incorrect: This business has been around since the 1970’s.• Correct: This business has been around since the 1970s.To briefly explain this, we don’t use an apostrophe to denote more than one item in a group.• Incorrect: Toyota makes those car’s.• Correct: Toyota makes those cars.People usually make this mistake when it comes to numbers. The second example isn’t a common mistake, but the first one is.That’s a lot to grammar to remember. As an author and a writer, using proper grammar is essential. When I write a business proposal, I generally write for investors. I am asking for money. Common grammatical errors will kill a business proposal. It makes for a messy, poorly thought piece. I want to read the content without the distractions caused by the improper use of grammar. For all you writers out there, I’m sure you didn’t become a writer without the intentions of doing your best. Remember these rules. Follow them, and you might discover that you have a bigger audience that you originally envisioned.

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