Basics of punctuation: the dreaded apostrophe
By Jackie Barrie, Copywriter, Trainer & Author at Comms Plus
As I write, I am looking at two photos I took recently in my local area. One shows the awning of a café in the High Street that reads: ‘Traditional Breakfast’s’; the other is a promotional car for Mercedes Benz (who really should know better), inviting people to call them about ‘this months offers’.
As eagle-eyed readers will notice, the first example has an apostrophe where it doesn’t belong, while the second is missing an apostrophe that should be there. I wish there was a way I could swap one for the other!
...why do people struggle more with the little apostrophe than any other punctuation mark?
Perhaps because of poor teaching at school, or maybe they simply copy common misuses, or it could be that — at first glance — the rules of its usage don’t seem to make sense. But, like anything, it’s easy when you know how.
So here’s a simple guide:
If it’s a plural — that is, a word meaning ‘more than one’ and ending in s — you do NOT use an apostrophe.
Examples: breakfasts, bananas, bicycles
-If it’s a single letter word e.g. There are three a’s in “banana”
If it’s a possessive — that is, a word meaning something belonging to something else — you DO use an apostrophe.
Examples: Auntie Millie’s breakfast, the monkey’s banana, 70’s fashion
-Try replacing the apostrophe with ‘of’ to check e.g. The breakfast of Auntie Millie, banana of the monkey, fashion of the 70s
-If the word is singular, the apostrophe goes BEFORE the s e.g. The cat’s pyjamas
-If the word is plural, the apostrophe goes AFTER the s e.g. Many cats’ pyjamas
-If the word is already plural, the apostrophe goes BEFORE the s e.g. The children’s bicycles
-If it’s a name that ends in s,... continued on page two >