The Apostrophe War

OK, some will call me picky but, hey, what’s up with the apostrophe?  It seems to me that a lot of people feel that if a word ends in an “s”, an apostrophe is required …. somewhere.  Before?  After?  I read an ad once about a Flea Market coming to town with “100 of its’ (sic) best dealers.”  Further in the ad, they proclaimed  “bargain shopping at it’s (sic) best!”  I suppose the writer thought he might as well cover all bases.  Stick the apostrophe before, stick it after, what difference does it make?  Exactly what is the word its’ supposed to mean??  That’s a new one on me (and I hope to every educated person reading this blog.)

apos3For those who would like a brief reminder (and who doesn’t from time to time?) there are some very basic rules for using an apostrophe.  The photos illustrate mistakes!

(1) USE one for contractions: I don’t know of an easier rule. 

(2) USE one to show ownership: Mark’s blog is brilliant. 

(3) DON’T use it when the possessive pronoun ALREADY shows ownership:  Theirs is the fourth house.   The cat licked its paw.

(4) NEVER use it for plurals.  I baked cookies for Lewis.   (Here, there are 2 exceptions…read on.)

(5) USE it for plurals of letters and numbers: There are 4 A’s on her report card!  He has only size 8’s in stock.

So there you have it.  Stay tuned to this blog as we explore “inventive” spelling and creative punctuation.  apos2Ta Ta for now.


  1. You’ve obviously been clutching your copy of Stunk and White. And of course, you were talking about some other Mark. 😀

  2. Carolyn Thomas

    Arlene, what is your studied opinion on decades, as in: “the 1950s” – with or without an apostrophe? “The 1950’s” – just looks weird to me.

    • Thank you for your comment; my opinion is that since 1950 is a number, 1950’s is the plural. I also think that TV’s, DVD’s and RV’s is legitimate, since they are basically “letters” as opposed to “televisions,” “disks,” and “recreational vehicles”. Hope you enjoy future posts!

      • There are style guides that allow an apostrophe in 1900’s, but most say to leave it out (as there is little chance of ambiguity). It also makes it easier to write something like, “Tie-dye was a 60’s fad.” (The fad belongs to the 60s.) The same is true for those abbreviations, “TV’s first big advance came from the DVD’s clear video quality, even when watching in RVs!”

        It does have a place for single letter abbreviations: “There are two t’s in kitten and letter.” Some writers don’t even like that, and will italicize or quote the single letter. “There are two ‘t’s in kitten.” “There are two ts in letter.”

  3. People don’t realize this, but there’s a growing nation-wide shortage of apostrophes! If we don’t mend our ways, we’ll run out by 2027! So spread the word, everyone! Don’t be an apostropher needlessly or heedlessly!

    • I never thought of that. And I love your creative noun “apostropher.”

      • You may be as surprised as I was to find it’s actually a real (French) word that means “to apostrophize” or “to speak sharply or harshly at.” I thought the pair of meanings was especially apropos to your post.

      • I love it! My husband (not a wordsmith) calls that “verbizing a noun.” Thanks for the new word; I can always use one!

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