Please use apostrophes correctly!

It's (illustrating correct or incorrect use of an apostrophe in written English)

Do not underestimate the difference that using correct grammar will make to your web pages.

All writers of English text, whether on web pages, SMS text messages, notices or documents of any type, should ensure correct usage of the apostrophe and ideally put right mistakes made inadvertently.

Although some people do not notice incorrect grammar, many people do, especially those who read a lot (whether it is books, articles or press releases) or for whom writing is a part of their job. If a reader notices that you have used incorrect grammar, you will instantly lose credibility.

Do not assume that if you don't know whether to use an apostrophe, then most of your readers won't either.

Many of your readers will notice, and they will infer that you did not learn to write correctly. Whenever you write a plural, a contraction, or a possessive noun you should always check to see whether an apostrophe should be used or not, and that if it is to be used, it is in the correct place.

The rules concerning the use of apostrophes in written English are very simple:

The rules

Rule - apostrophes are used to denote a missing letter or letters:

  • it's instead of it is
  • I can't instead of I cannot
  • I don't instead of I do not
  • it's instead of it is

Rule - apostrophes are used to denote possession:

  • the dog's bone
  • the council's logo
  • Jones's bakery (but Joneses' bakery if owned by more than one Jones

...but please note that the possessive form of it does not take an apostrophe any more than ours, yours or hers do:

  • the bone is in its mouth

...however, if there are two or more dogs, councils or Joneses in our example, the apostrophe comes after the 's':

  • the dogs' bones
  • the councils' logos
  • Joneses' bakeries

Rule - apostrophes are NEVER ever used to denote plurals:

  • Banana's for sale which should read Bananas for sale
  • Menu's printed to order which should read Menus printed to order
  • MOT's at this garage which should read MOTs at this garage
  • 1,000's of bargains here! which should read 1,000s of bargains here!
  • New CD's just in! which should read New CDs just in!
  • Buy your Christmas tree's here! which should read Buy your Christmas trees here!

Note - special care must be taken over the use of your and you're as they sound the same but are used quite differently:

  • your is possessive as in this is your pen
  • you're is short for you are as in you're coming over to my house

Please note: the content of this page is based on information published by the Apostrophe Protection Society. All rights and copyright of the original author are duly acknowledged.

This page was last updated on 24 October 2013

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