Apostrophe Usage 101

The apostrophe isn’t a complicated entity. It is used to indicate two things in English: a possessive or a contraction. For example, in the preceding sentence, “isn’t” has an apostrophe in it because it is a contraction for “is not”, and the apostrophe indicates the missing “O”.

The apostrophe should never be used to indicate plurals. (The only possible exception to this rule is a purely stylistic one which I utterly loathe, and that is in the case of reference to a decade; e.g. “The 1970’s”. That usage grates on my brain something awful.)

The apostrophe should also never be randomly inserted into words that, by pure coincidence, end in “S”, especially not when you’re writing a story about education. Hint to Dan Bewley: in the following sentence, not only should an apostrophe not be used to pluralize a word (a very common and disgusting error), but “guarantees” isn’t even plural! It’s the third-person present indicative tense of the verb “to guarantee”.

Organizers of J.O.N.A.H., Joint-religious Organizing Network for Action and Hope, are hoping to expand the city’s legacy scholarship program that guarantee’s tuition to Kellogg Community College for Battle Creek or Lakeview school graduates.


posted by Chris on 15 October 2006 at 1922 in language


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Comment by Lee Bennett

This is a huge pet peeve of mine as well. Just as bad when the curly versions are used backwards. It should be ’90s and not ‘90s.

And while I’m on this topic…it’s not exactly clear to me whether you’re saying an apostrophe should or should not come after a year. Every thing I’ve ever looked up says it should not. Same goes for CDs and DVDs. The only exception I’ve ever seen is for single-character pluralizations such as “dot your i’s and cross your t’s,” and this exception is only because they can sometimes be mistaken as a full word, such as “several letter A’s.”

While I can’t specifically recall a mention, I would imagine that this exception would also extend to multi-character words that are being made into a plural if adding an S to the end makes it a different word.

posted at 1922 on 15 October 2006

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