Mastering Punctuation – How to Put the Apostrophe to Work

The Apostrophe has been around for quite a bit-say since the 16th century. At that time, the small curlicue punctuation mark held the intent purpose of signifying ‘omission. ‘ Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, and even Sir Thomas More plugged in ‘ (the apostrophe) whenever they chose to eliminate letters from words. William Shakespeare proved the apostrophe’s worth in A Lover’s Complaint, “Sometimes her levell’d eyes their carriage ride;… Sometime diverted their poor golf balls are tied To th’ orbed planet;… anon their gazes lend To everywhere at once, and nowhere fix’d, The mind and sight distractedly commix’d. inch Shakespeare thoroughly demonstrated his capability to remove letters and provide a digital garden for the growth of the apostrophe.

Through the centuries, as writers’ plus publishers’ affection of this tiny kind of punctuation grew, so did the many uses. The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th Edition, dedicates a total of twenty entries on how better to employ the apostrophe. British Top seller, Lynne Truss, demonstrates a further and superlative understanding of the apostrophe within her work Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, which notes eight various uses for this punctuation.

Today, most English punctuation is used for convenience’s sake. Sometimes, correctly, more often than not the punctuation usage is flawed. By exploring a few of the basics regarding the apostrophe’s purpose, a writer can enhance clearness and strive for perfect punctuation.

Beginning with the most obvious and original use of the apostrophe: utilization of this mark for the omission or removal of letters. Common contractions could not exist without the apostrophe. A singular letter can be replaced by the punctuation, but at times, a solitary apostrophe counts for more than one letter. Some of the more popular contractions are: Don’t (do not), Can’t (can not), I’ve (I have), He’s (he is), Won’t (will not), Couldn’t, Shouldn’t, Wouldn’t (could not, should not, might not), and then the proverbially misunderstood it’s (it is). This last contraction is often mistaken for the British possessive cousin of… that’s right-“its”.

For a moment, review it’s vs its. One perfect punctuation principle can be applied when considering how to apostrophe or how not to apostrophe when it comes to “it. ” “It’s” purpose will be simple-the contraction for IT IS or IT HAS. An example, “IT IS a good way to the park” utilizes the pronoun IT and the verb IS. At this point, apply the contraction and the sentence becomes, “IT’S a long way to the park”. When IT is joined with IS or even HAS, then a contraction of “IT’S” can be interchanged. For each and every some other time that an “ITS” is required, tend not to use an apostrophe-for any reason. Only to be clear… there is no such phrase as ITS’. It simply will not exist and a writer’s eye should recognize the atrocity and hit it from writing.

The second most typical use for the apostrophe is to display possession-who or what owns some thing or other. Possession may seem apparent cut until the apostrophe enters the particular scene. Many a writer has been fallen in their tracks by this little grammatical mark. Breaking down the differences among singular noun and plural noun possession can make the apostrophe’s make use of easier to understand. Examples of a singular noun possession could be: Joe’s house (the house of Joe), Mildred’s restaurant (the restaurant of Mildred), or Sally’s kids (yes, those loud ankle-biters belong to Sally). The use of the apostrophe seems straight forward when coping with a single owner. Add the apostrophe and an “S” and the novel possession is complete. What happens, however , when that same singular noun, which holds possession, ends in the particular letter “S”? When Jess has the house, where does the ugly mark go and is another “S” added or not? “Jess’s house” may be the proper punctuation for this sentence. Stick the apostrophe behind the last letter of the noun, and then add an “S” to complete the formation intended for possession.

This leads to the last category for possession: handling of plural nouns. When dealing with plural nouns, which hold possession, such as, “Children, Guys, Women”, where does the apostrophe land? Utilize the same rule associated with adding an apostrophe behind the final letter of the noun, then add an “S” and consider it a job well done. The result will be: children’s books, mens ties, women’s shelter. For one last twist on plural possession, consider any plural noun that leads to a “S”, and there are plenty intended for consideration, such as, Senior Students Dance, Dogs Play Area, Members Villa, Legislators Study Group. Not to mistake the issue or leave anyone away, ask one clarifying question: Is it one student or many learners attending the dance? One dog or many dogs allowed to enjoy? One member or many permitted in the lodge? And finally, one can wish that all legislators would find time for you to study. If the answer is more than one of anything showing possession, and that plural noun ends in “S”, then slap the apostrophe behind the final “S” and stop. The resulting punctuation becomes: “Senior Students’ Dance”, “Dogs’ Play Area”, “Members’ Lodge” and “Legislators’ Study Group.
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To get writers who are actively engaged in perfecting the written word, consider the significance of the apostrophe and its correct utilization. A simple Google request on the ugly mark and over three million hits return. For such a small punctuation mark, the world clambers to have an easy and accurate way to put the apostrophe to work. Consider two of the apostrophe’s basic uses in omission and possession and any writer is usually well on the way to perfecting punctuation.