Apostrophes are one of the most incorrectly used punctuation marks.
Here's a short guide to when (and when not) to use apostrophes:


Personal names and singular nouns

Apostrophes are used to show a thing or person belongs to someone or something.

George's community = the community belonging to George
The cup's handle = the handle belonging to the cup
Today's newspaper = the newspaper belonging to today

Personal names ending in S

If the name ends with S, add an apostrophe and S if you would pronounce the extra S when saying it out loud.

Jess's editing
Thomas's buttons
Dickens's novels

With names where you wouldn't pronounce the second S verbally, just add an apostrophe after the S.

Bridges' mother

Plural nouns ending in S

When the noun is plural and ends in S, add an apostrophe after the S.

A girls' school

Other plural nouns

When the noun is plural but does not end with S, add an apostrophe and S.

The children's Christmas tree
The Country Women's Association

Showing omission

I'm = I am
she'll = she will
he'd = he had/he would
it's = it is
didn't = did not
can't = cannot
'88 = 1988

It's vs its

it's = it is/it has

It's been a cold winter
It's a good book

its = belonging to it

The cat sharpened its claws

Don't use apostrophes
to show plural forms!

Two exceptions to the rule:

  • plurals of single letters = dotting the i's and crossing the t's
  • plurals of single numbers = how many number 8's?

Got another grammar question? Contact me and I'll add it to the blog.