When to use an apostrophe

Today’s tip is how to apostrophate.

Just kidding, that’s not a word.

How to use apostrophes – a few tips.


Image source: makeameme.org

1. Does a person/company/group own something? Use an apostrophe

e.g. We need your driver’s licence as proof of identity.

e.g. We are currently reviewing all customers’ accounts.

e.g. Your team’s efforts should be recognised.

e.g. We won Rainbow Unicorn’s Best Value Award.

e.g. What about James’s report?

Exception: its and your are also words for ownership, but they don’t use apostrophes (compared with it’s and you’re).

You can work out whether you’re writing the exception or whether you need an apostrophe by checking if you can replace the “its” or “your” with a name and apostrophe. If you can, then it’s about ownership.

e.g. The Group has expanded its/your working-from-home capability this year.

>>> This could be replaced with a name and apostrophe, e.g. The Group has expanded Bob’s working-from-home capability this year.

So because the sentence still makes sense after replacing the word, so “its” or “your” would be appropriate.

2. Is it a contraction (two words stuck together and shortened)? Use an apostrophe to glue the words together

Contraction are words that are stuck together and shortened, such as we’ve – a contraction or “we have”.

e.g. At our company, we’ve been looking after members for over 100 years.

It’s = a contraction of “it is”.

So if you can replace “it’s” with “it is”, and the sentence still makes sense, you’re on the right track.

e.g. At our company, it’s all about putting members first.

>>> At our company, it is all about putting members first.

You’re = contraction of “you are”.

e.g. You’re going to need to check your super balance.

3. Is it a plural? No apostrophes

e.g. PDSs, FAQs, MPs, 1980s, he’s in his 50s.

I cringe every time I go to my favourite fish-n-chip shop because the lovely owners’ sign says they have “new special’s every week”. (And yes, we do occasionally chat with them about their sign, but the owners are just too sweet and I always end up hearing all about their grandkids and asking them for advice about my daughter’s toilet training, because y’all know – relationship is more important than grammar.)

4. Is it another type of abbreviation (not a contraction)? No apostrophe

e.g. When we’re referring to legislation, it’s “Cth” not “C’th”.

I think that about covers it (not “cover’s it”), but if you have questions or exceptions you’d like to talk about, please comment!

(C) TJ Withers-Ryan, 2022. Please credit me when you repost, thanks!

2 thoughts on “When to use an apostrophe

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