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Grammar Tips & Tidbits


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Apostrophes: Part II

Last week we discussed the two main purposes for apostrophes: to shorten words or phrases into contractions and to signal ownership in possessives. If you missed last week's grammar tip, you can review it here. Just to summarize, plurals do not need apostrophes in most cases, so use careful consideration before placing apostrophes in words that end with the letter s. Now on to the basic rules for using apostrophes!

Next time you're debating where to place an apostrophe, try following these simple steps:

1) Determine whether the word is singular or plural.





• girl

• girls


• boy

• boys


• doctor

• doctors

• coach • coaches  
• singer • singers  
• assistant • assistants  

2) If the word is singular and does not end with the letter s, add an apostrophe plus s to the end of the word.

• girl's dress
• boy's computer
• doctor's stethoscope
• coach's whistle
• singer's voice
• assistant's desk

3) If the word is plural and ends with s or es, simply add an apostrophe to the end of the word. Always form the plural before adding the apostrophe.

• girls' dresses
• boys' computers
• doctors' stethoscopes
• coaches' whistles
• singers' voices
• assistants' desks

4) For irregular plurals that do not end in s, add an apostrophe plus s. Note that you should still form the plural before adding the apostrophe.

• children's choir
• women's team
• men's ties

Did you notice that I left out a whole group of words? Singulars that end in s! This is a difficult topic, and one that even the experts don't agree on. Which of these is correct: your boss's car or your boss' car? Is it correct to write Mr. Jennings's house or Mr. Jennings' house? To make things more confusing, many of the rules we learned in school have been turned upside-down by some grammar authorities! I'll dedicate next week's newsletter to this touchy subject.

To read the next grammar tip in the apostrophes series, click here.

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