A Wife Loved Like The Church

Apostrophe (what is it used for?)

Posted on: December 11, 2009

Absolutely everything!

I had a great discuss with some gals on the proper use of the apostrophe*. Can I confess that this is one topic that drives me crazy? Not sure why, but the overuse and/or improper use of apostrophes sounds to me like nails down a chalkboard in written form. So, I decided to inform the world around me of proper apostrophe usage.

The apostrophe has three uses:

  1. to form possessives of nouns
  2. to show the omission of letters
  3. to indicate certain plurals of lowercase letters

The first use of the apostrophe seems to cause the most confusion. The case my friends and I were discuss was in regard to last names – specifically when addressing cards. Is it Windhams, Windham’s, Windhams’?

Windhams – Used when addressing the entire family; “We saw the Windhams at the park.”

Windham’s – Used when showing singular possession; “That is Sarah Windham’s jacket.”

Windhams’ – Used when showing plural possession; “That is the Windhams’ house.”

With those examples set in place, that would mean, when addressing Christmas cards (or the such), you would simply write “The Windhams”, no apostrophe, just make it a plural noun.

One that trips up a lot of people are names like Jones or James (ending in “s”).

Joneses – Used when addressing the entire family; “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

Jones’s – Used when showing singular possession; “That is Bridget Jones’s diary.” (Here, it is also acceptable to put Jones’ or James’; “that is James’ book”)

Joneses’ – Used when showing plural possession;  “That is the Joneses’ car.” (No ‘s is needed, just ‘).

The second use of the apostrophe is more straight forward:

would not = wouldn’t

I am = I’m

he will = he’ll

it is = it’s

1999 = ’99

The third use of the apostrophe is to form plurals of lowercase letters, and is more typographical than grammatical. Such as “minding your p’s and q’s”.

*Jonathan said I should back up my information with sources, so if you want go here, here and here for more information!

4 Responses to "Apostrophe (what is it used for?)"

OK, I am laughing so hard to myself. Because, I can remember your obsession with Language Arts back in EIGHTH GRADE and if I may say so, I think it is totally hilarious that it still haunts you to the point of writing an entire blog entry about it. It’s just one of the things everyone loves about ya’, Bob! LOL You’re totally great – I love it!

haha! now i know who to call when i am addressing my Christmas cards 🙂 thanks for the info

Sarah – I’m proud of myself, because I’ve gotten really tame over the years with my obsession. I found out quickly that nobody likes continual grammar correction. 😉 I do still have to bite my tongue when someone says “Where is “he/she/it” at?”, as my impulse is to always reply “Behind the at.”

Leah – any time, my friend. Any time. I tried finding my MLA book, but I think it’s in TN.

Brilliant thanks for sharing. I’m pretty good usually but get messed up with last names ending in ‘s'(wonder if that’s correct hmm). Much appreciated!

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