On Writing & Blogging

Grammar Rant: The Apostrophe (Episode 1)

By on March 30, 2016

Today’s rant features the apostrophe. That little mark that unlocks a world of possibilities when we throw it into contractions, abbreviations, and possessive phrases. It can also induce grammar migraines in no time flat, even for the most nerdy grammar nerd.

First up, the contraction. Best known for saving time when speaking and character space in texts, tweets, and snaps. I know you all have been there. You are one character over on some brief message and eliminate an apostrophe. She’ll know I mean “don’t” if I type dont. It happens. I get it. You’ve also seen the memes floating around that explain the difference between their, they’re, and there. (Never fear, there will certainly be a rant on that another day.)

Next in line are abbreviations. Again, I’ll expand on this rant someday, but I’m a frequent user of clipped words such as diggin’, readin’, and eatin’. Not sure who or what I’ll blame that on, but I do it. In these circumstances, the apostrophe takes the place of the missing letters and writers assume their readers will understand what they are saying. I notice this most when authors are intent on depicting a conversation exactly as it would be heard.

Finally, the heavyweight contender, the possessives! So many confusing situations can arise when trying to determine when to include the apostrophe or when you include an “s” or not. Names are a prime example of the “s dilemma”.

  • This book belongs to James. It is James’s/James’ book.
  • This home belongs to the Jones family. This is the Jones’s/Jones’ house.

The Jones family is difficult even without possession involved. Are you keeping up with the Joneses or Jones’s?

Another example before I ask you to share yours. You visit your favorite sports team for the first time. You get a certificate that says “My First Snails Game”. Your team is the Snails. Plural. Should there be an apostrophe after “Snails”? Does the game belong to the snails? What about their colors. Are you wearing Snails colors? Or are you wearing Snails’ colors? Those colors are the Snails’, but do you include the apostrophe when using “Snails” as an adjective?

I got a bit off the possessive track early in my rant, but what are your apostrophe challenges? I would love to hear them! Are they possessives? Contractions? Abbreviations? Do you have examples I should use when I rant next?

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Warby Parker
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1 Comment
  1. Reply

    Rachel @ Never Enough Novels

    April 7, 2016

    Its versus it’s. My boyfriend is a magazine editor with a journalism degree, but even after he tried to explain the difference to me I still don’t understand. Apparently there is no apostrophe when the “it” is possessive? Sigh.

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