Mastering Punctuation – How to Put the Apostrophe to Work

The particular 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. Bill Shakespeare proved the apostrophe’s worth in A Lover’s Complaint, “Sometimes her levell’d eyes their carriage trip;… Sometime diverted their poor tennis balls are tied To th’ orbed earth;… anon their gazes lend To everywhere at once, and nowhere fix’d, Your brain and sight distractedly commix’d. ” Shakespeare thoroughly demonstrated his capability to remove letters and provide a digital garden for the growth of the apostrophe.

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

Today, the majority of 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 clarity 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 spasms could not exist without the apostrophe. A singular letter can be replaced by the punctuation, but at times, a solitary apostrophe matters 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, Ought not to, Wouldn’t (could not, should not, would certainly not), and then the proverbially misunderstood it’s (it is).
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This last contraction is often mistaken for the English possessive cousin of… that’s right-“its”.

For a moment, review it’s compared to its. One perfect punctuation principle can be applied when considering how to apostrophe or how not to apostrophe in regards to “it. ” “It’s” purpose will be simple-the contraction for IT IS or IT HAS. An example, “IT IS a long 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 additional time that an “ITS” is required, tend not to use an apostrophe-for any reason. Only to be clear… there is no such word as ITS’. It simply does not exist and a writer’s eye need to recognize the atrocity and strike it from writing.

The second most typical use for the apostrophe is to show possession-who or what owns some thing or other. Possession may seem very clear cut until the apostrophe enters the scene. Many a writer has been slipped in their tracks by this small grammatical mark. Breaking down the differences in between 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 eating place (the restaurant of Mildred), or Sally’s kids (yes, those noisy 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 letter “S”? When Jess has the house, where does the curly mark go and is another “S” added or not? “Jess’s house” is the proper punctuation for this sentence. Tuck the apostrophe behind the last letter of the noun, and then add a good “S” to complete the formation regarding possession.

This leads to the last category regarding possession: handling of plural nouns. When dealing with plural nouns, which usually hold possession, such as, “Children, Men, Women”, where does the apostrophe land? Utilize the same rule of adding an apostrophe behind the last letter of the noun, then add an “S” and consider it a job congratulations. The result will be: children’s books, in a number of ties, women’s shelter. For one last twist on plural possession, consider any plural noun that leads to a “S”, and there are plenty with regard to consideration, such as, Senior Students Dancing, Dogs Play Area, Members Lodge, Legislators Study Group. Not to confuse the issue or leave anyone out there, ask one clarifying question: Could it be one student or many learners attending the dance? One canine or many dogs allowed to perform? One member or many allowed in the lodge? And finally, one can hope that all legislators would find time to study. If the answer is more compared to one of anything showing possession, which plural noun ends in “S”, then slap the apostrophe behind the last “S” and stop. The resulting punctuation becomes: “Senior Students’ Dance”, “Dogs’ Play Area”, “Members’ Lodge” plus “Legislators’ Study Group. ”

With regard to writers who are actively engaged in perfecting the written word, consider the importance of the apostrophe and its correct use. A simple Google request on the ugly mark and over three mil hits return. For such a tiny 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 will be well on the way to perfecting punctuation.