Apostrophe Mistakes: Unnecessary and Missing
Apostrophe is a big word for a such a little symbol. Apostrophes have a couple typical uses: they’re used to form possessive nouns (the cat’s collar) or form contractions/replace omitted letters (can’t, don’t, won’t, the ‘70s). Simple in theory, complicated in execution: from primary school through college graduation, apostrophes are one of the main grammar issues found in academic compositions.
As with any language convention, there are rules to using apostrophes, and a number of commonly made mistakes. Check our list below to make sure you’re using apostrophes appropriately. When in doubt, leave them out! Or run them through WriteLab.
There are a few different ways to use apostrophes with possessive nouns.
—To create a singular possessive noun, add an ’s (apostrophe + s).
- The girl’s sunglasses.
- The tent’s zipper.
- The zebra’s stripes.
—To create a possessive plural noun that ends in s, just add an ’ (apostrophe).
- The girls’ sunglasses.
- The tents’ zippers.
- The zebras’ stripes.
—To create a possessive plural noun that ends in any other letter than an s, add an ’s (apostrophe + s).
- The people’s court.
- The mice’s cheese.
—To create a possessive proper noun that ends in an s, just add an ’ (apostrophe).
- We’re going to Lucas’ wedding tomorrow.
- Las Vegas’ airport is really busy tonight.
Use an apostrophe to create contractions. Replace the letter that you removed with an apostrophe. For example, if you want to turn “is not” into a contraction, you’ll replace the o with an apostrophe to make “isn’t.”
● Sarah is going to the beach. → Sarah’s going to the beach.
● He cannot join the club. → He can’t join the club.
● Do not enter that building. → Don’t enter that building.
Aside from using apostrophes to create contractions, you should also use them when letters are otherwise omitted, like in slang language or to describe a decade.
● That type of music was popular in the 1970s → That type of music was popular in the ‘70s.
● I’m not telling you anything! → I’m not tellin’ you anythin’!
Common Apostrophe Mistakes
Because apostrophes are used in so many different ways, it's easy to make a mistake by omitting them, or using them unnecessarily.
—Avoid the grocer’s apostrophe: using an apostrophe unnecessarily for a plural noun.
- Ex: Buy 2 carrot’s get one free!
—Exception: Use an apostrophe when making a singular letter or number plural.
- Ex: Cross your t’s and dot your i’s, mind your p’s and q’s.
—Don’t use apostrophes with possessive pronouns, like him, theirs, or your.
- Ex: Your’s is more expensive.
A Quick Look at Apostrophe Comments in WriteLab
WriteLab brings together Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, and English Language Instruction. Student writing is analyzed in seconds with the WriteLab app—giving students feedback and suggestions on how to revise and polish their draft.