Apostrophe Addicts Abound

apostrophe horrorOne of the fads that I just don’t get is the current fascination with apostrophes. They’re popping up everywhere they don’t belong. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret: They are very easy to control, and you don’t even have to go to an AAA meeting!

Whenever you see an apostrophe, just stop and say (to yourself or out loud, works either way) the two complete words that are missing (contraction). If it makes sense, fine. No change is needed. But what if no words are missing, or it doesn’t make sense? Then, does the word with the apostrophe own something (possession)? If yes, then it’s probably fine. If not, then the apostrophe doesn’t belong there. Then you will have to figure out what goes there instead, which can get tricky with some of them. Let’s practice with some easier ones first. We’ll take on the more difficult ones in our next blog post.

List of standard contractions

EXAMPLE: What’s for dinner?

1. You see an apostrophe, so you stop and say the two words that are missing: For the contraction what’s, the two words replaced are what is.

2. What is for dinner? That makes sense, so no change is needed, because the apostrophe is taking the place of the two complete words (contraction).

CORRECT: What’s for dinner?

EXAMPLE: The dog’s tail was broken.

1. You see an apostrophe, so you stop and say the two words that are missing: The word dog’s is not a contraction, so no words are missing.

2. In that case, does the word with the apostrophe own something? Yes, the dog owns his tail.

3. No change is needed, because the apostrophe is showing possession.

CORRECT: The dog’s tail was broken.

EXAMPLE: The veterinarian thinks it’s going to heal.

1. You see an apostrophe, so you stop and say the two words that are missing: For the contraction it’s, the two words replaced are it is.

2. The veterinarian thinks it is going to heal. That makes sense, so no change is needed, because the apostrophe is taking the place of the two complete words (contraction).

CORRECT: The veterinarian thinks it’s going to heal.

EXAMPLE: The dog’s paw’s are bloody, too.

1. You see an apostrophe, so you stop and say the two words that are missing: The word dog’s is not a contraction, so no words are missing.

2. In that case, does the word with the apostrophe own something? Yes, the dog owns his paws, so no change is needed there. But don’t forget the other apostrophe.

3. You see another apostrophe, so you stop and say the two words that are missing: The word paw’s is not a contraction, so no words are missing.

4. In that case, does the word with the apostrophe own something? No, the paws do not own anything.

5. No contraction and no possession= no apostrophe needed. Get rid of it!

CORRECT: The dog’s paws are bloody, too.

Since this is English, there are exceptions to these guidelines, of course. We’ll tackle those next time, when we work on weird possessives such as whose/who’s, it’s/its and those pesky yard signs that say The Smiths’.

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Apostrophe Addicts Abound

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