by Kathy Edens
Apostrophes are like weeds. Sometimes they crop up in the most unexpected places. How do you know when and where to use an apostrophe? Let’s set the record straight.
First rule — possession
Use an apostrophe + s to show possession for singular nouns.
- The dog’s leash
- The mailman’s bag
- The book’s cover
What about singular nouns that end in s like bus? You can handle it one of two ways, depending on which style guide you’re using or your editor’s preference.
- The bus’s front tire
- The bus’ front tire.
Some journalists use an apostrophe + s for regular nouns like bus’s, but use the apostrophe alone for proper nouns ending in s like Jones’ or Hastings’.
Follow your clients’ style guides to determine how to handle possession singular nouns that end in s. Or if you don’t have a style guide, pick one and stick to it.
Use an apostrophe after the s to show possession for plural nouns.
- The mailboxes’ flags
- The girls’ dresses
- The books’ dust jackets
The key is to understand how to make plurals first before even thinking about possessive forms. NOTE: Never use an apostrophe + s to make a regular noun or a proper noun plural.
- Tuesday’s are bad should be Tuesdays are bad
- A decade of Christmas’s should be A decade of Christmases
- Pork chop’s on sale should be pork chops on sale
- We visited the Rios’s should be we visited the Rioses
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