The Fix-It Police #2: Altering Apostrophes

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by Luke Coulter

Some grammar concepts are extremely complicated and have page after page of exceptions. Apostrophes are not one of them. There are exactly two instances when an apostrophe is appropriate, and if neither of those options apply, an apostrophe isn’t used (these rules are especially true with holiday cards as Ines explained previously on the blog). Those two instances are possession and contraction. If there is an apostrophe in a word, that word must either contain a contraction or denote possession. Full stop.


See, nothing in grammar is ever simple. A strict grammarian might frown when faced with a sign like this (which I walk by every day on my way to school — It never fails to make me wince):

photo by Luke

However, if you ask them whether it should be “Chris’ apostrophe” or “Chris’s apostrophe,” you’ll get different answers. Likewise, “its” is possessive only if it doesn’t contain an apostrophe.

Confusing, huh?

It’s probably no wonder why the “grocer’s’ apo’strophe” is a historical phenomenon that is still happening today. The next time you see a sneaky apostrophe in a place it doesn’t belong, give it a nod of encouragement. Its trying.



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