by Jill Marie Williamson I, Duchess of Carm
I just have to confess to you that sometimes when I write these Punctuation 101 posts, I have to review, and this time, I learned something new. I feel tall.
So here are some rules about apostrophes.
To turn a noun into a possessive form, add an apostrophe s.
Ex: It's Billy's turn to ride the bike.
Ex: A Time to Kill was this reader's favorite book.
Ex: Chris's story is awesome!
Exception: If the word ends in a silent s, add only an apostrophe.
Ex: What was Alexander Dumas' first novel?
Ex: Please take care of the marquis' horse.
Exception: Words that end with the eez sound or two s sounds only get the apostrophe.
Ex: Xerxes' army was massive.
Ex: Jesus' mother was named Mary.
Exception: For plural nouns that already end in s, simply add an apostrophe.
Ex: Please clean the puppies' food dish.
For ... sake!
Add an apostrophe s unless the noun ends in an s, then omit the s after the apostrophe.
Ex: For heaven's sake!
Ex: For Cetheria's hand! (I added this one to show that you can change the expression, but still follow this rule.)
Ex: For goodness' sake!
Do not use an apostrophe when the noun is used in a descriptive sense rather than showing possession. If something is FOR a certain group or OF a certain thing, omit the apostrophe.
Ex: I'm going to a writers conference. (A conference FOR writers.)
Ex: Anne Shirley went to a teachers college. (A college FOR teachers.)
Ex: I got a copy of Speak from a used books sale at my library. (A sale OF used books.)
Omitted Letters or Numbers
This is the one that I see wrong most often. And it's tricky because sometimes your word processing program flips the apostrophes around, to which I say, "Grrr."
Use an apostrophe to replace omitted letters in a word. If your font uses
curly quotes, make sure that the apostrophe curls in the right direction. It is an apostrophe, not a single quote, so there should never be a debate as to which direction it should go. It is an apostrophe because it is showing a letter that is missing, just like in a contraction. So whether the apostrophe comes in the front of the word, the middle, or the back, it should look like this: ’
Ex: There be no tellin’ what he’ll do now. (The apostrophe takes the place
of the g in “telling.”)
Ex: All you kids do is sit around listening to that loud rock ’n’
roll. (The apostrophe before the n takes the place of the a in “and.” The
apostrophe after the n takes the place of the d ion “and.”
Ex: I won’t come out ’til you promise not to laugh! (The apostrophe takes
the place of the un in “until.”)
Ex: I graduated high school in the class of ’93. (The ’ takes the place of the “19” in “1993.”)
An’ that’s all I have t’ say ’bout that.