Saturday, February 12, 2011

Apostrophes and possession. Not as simple as it once seemed

Using apostrophes to show certain plurals
  1. Use an apostrophe to signal plural forms of individual letters of the alphabet and to signal the plural of a word as a word (which should also be italicized). 
  2. Do not use an apostrophe to signal plural numbers or acronyms.
The professor must have used one hundred ah's and uh's during his lecture. 
I had two F's on my report card. 
There are fifty-two PCs in the accounting department. 
An example of four-of-a-kind in a poker hand would be four 9s.
Using apostrophes to signal missing letters
Use an apostrophe to signal missing letters, formal or informal, modern or archaic.
  • I can't understand a word you're saying. (cannot, you are)
  • 'Twas the eve of his wedding. (It was)
  • O'er the mountains yonder. (Over)
Using apostrophes to show possession
  1. Never use an apostrophe with a pronoun (his, hers, theirs, ours, etc).
    • It was his turn to throw the ball.
    • That house is theirs.
  2. For a plural showing possession, end the plural with S followed by an apostrophe.
    • The players' locker room was located beneath the stadium.
    • The octopuses' tank at the aquarium is very popular. (More than one octopus in a single tank)
  3. For a singular ending in S and showing possession, end with an apostrophe S.
    • That is James's book.
    • The octopus's tank at the aquarium is very popular. (A single octopus in a single tank).

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