Crimes Against Grammar: The Poor, Poor Apostrophe

Like the people of the world, all punctuation marks are created equal. Like your elders and Kit-Kats, all should be respected. (Don’t be the monstrosity who bites into the Kit-Kat without breaking it apart first, you hear?)

Some, however, will just never get the respect they deserve.

Periods are simple enough. Anyone with a first grade education knows how to use a period.

Question marks and exclamation points do okay, although you do occasionally see some joker write, “Are you serious!” or “I thought that too, but apparently it’s on Wednesday?”

Semi-colons and colons generally get left alone, because they’re intimidating and because they’re named after gross body parts.

The same goes for m-dashes, minus the gross name part.

Quotation marks get by pretty well.

I’ve already spoken my piece about parentheses and commas, though I didn’t do commas nearly enough justice. The comma is probably the most abused punctuation mark.

The apostrophe, however, is a close second.

The poor, poor apostrophe.

“Thats Michaels new car. It’s speaker’s are great. Well, its actually his parent’s. They dont let him drive it much.”

Why does this happen? Have the people no souls? In all corners of the world, apostrophes are slowly dying from abuse or neglect.

Hand me my red pen.


This isn’t a word. It literally isn’t a word.

You mean “that’s,” which is a contraction of “that is.”


Is there more than one Michael? No? One Michael? And the car belongs to Michael?

Then this is a possessive noun, and it needs an apostrophe, my friend.


As simple as that.

If you are talking about more than one Michael, omit the apostrophe. If something belongs to Michael, use the apostrophe.

If there are multiple Michaels to whom something belongs, that is an entirely different situation, and I will talk about it later.


See above.

They are speakers. Nothing belongs to them.


Does he only have one parent? Is that the parent who doesn’t let him drive it much? No, because you said “they.” So your grammar is wrong, that’s what.

If you have more than one person to whom something belongs, you get to use the “apostrophe after the s” rule. It is a grand and glorious rule. I will walk you through it step by step.

  1. Write your word.
  2. Add an s.
  3. Add an apostrophe.


Here. I’ll do an example.

  1. Parent.
  2. Parents.
  3. Parents’.

See how easy that was? Now everyone knows that you’re talking about multiple parents to whom something belongs. Lovely.


Get away from me. I never want to see you again.

It’s and Its

I saved this one for last, because it is the bane of the apostrophe’s existence. (Note my correct use of the apostrophe for a possessive noun.)

“It’s” is not a possessive word. It is a contraction. It means “it is.”

It’s similar to “that’s.” (Note my correct use of the apostrophe in both cases.)

“Its” is a possessive word. If the car has speakers, the speakers are its.

Granted, this can get a little confusing. But not really. Just remember that if “it’s” has an apostrophe, it means “it is.” Otherwise, it’s possessive.

Now, for the corrections:

“That’s Michael’s new car. Its speakers are great. Well, it’s actually his parents’. They don’t let him drive it much.”

There. All is right with the world.

I could say a lot more on this subject. I have a lot of empathy for the unfortunate apostrophe.

If I were to say more, however, I would have to get into “there/their/they’re” and “your/you’re,” and then I would have to throw “to/too/two” in there, and it would all just snowball into one massive rant.

I don’t have the energy for that today.

Now, though, you can see why we all need apostrophes in our lives. And not only do we need them in our lives, but we need to use them correctly.

The poor apostrophe never did anything to you. He’s just trying to help. He’s only ever trying to help.

Just let him help, guys.


3 thoughts on “Crimes Against Grammar: The Poor, Poor Apostrophe

  1. I am disappointed that you didn’t mention that one should not use the rule for plural possessives when forming the possessive of a singular noun ending in S. It drives me up the wall when someone writes “Stokes’ Theorem.” It’s “Stokes’s Theorem.” If you wouldn’t say that the “moss’ hue” was appealing, you shouldn’t say “Stokes’.” It’s the “moss’s hue” and it’s “Stokes’s Theorem.”


    1. Good catch, my friend. You can’t imagine the shame I felt when I read this comment. It’s actually a constant fear of mine–making an egregious grammar error while ranting about grammar. It’s fixed now, in any case.


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