Apostrophes contract, possess, or pluralize. And no, pluralize does NOT mean you add “apostrophe ess” willy-nilly!
By indicating a missing letter (or letters) with an apostrophe, the writer may create a more natural way of “speaking”, representing non-standard forms of a word, i.e., gi’ replaces give, a’ replaces all and is particularly used when recreating colloquial dialog or in poetry. The most common “letter-replacement” method with which we are most aware is the contraction, i.e., “I had not…” becomes “I hadn’t…”
Possession is most commonly confused as being a form of pluralization. No. NO. Using an apostrophe to form a plural is EXTREMELY rare. When the apostrophe is used to form a plural, it should be because one needs to be very clear about making the word, number, or phrase a plural. Use CAUTION and pay attention to the style guide you’re using.
Using an apostrophe to make something possessive is simple enough: one” adds apostrophe ess”. Unless… Yes, it can get complicated, and again, you should refer to your style guide to see what their preference is OR as Chicago puts it: choose the method you like and be consistent in using it.
Properly Punctuated is…
…the proper use of quotation marks, commas, semicolons, colons, ellipsis, etc., including how to properly mark dialog, ahem. As Properly Punctuated is in no way complete, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone…
If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page — and consider sharing this Properly Punctuated tidbit with friends by tweeting it.
|Credit to: Enchanted Learning.com; Informatics.sussex.ac.uk; Wikipedia|
|Apostrophes take the place of missing letters or numbers, indicate possession, and create plural forms.|
|Definition: Technically, a contraction is known as a clitic, a cross between an affix and a word. They are phonologically so short they can’t be pronounced alone and must be joined to another word.
Using contractions sets a more informal tone to the story, post, article, etc., and your expected audience should be taken into account.
In the reverse, eliminating contractions sets a more formal tone and is best used in formal papers, reports, term papers, or as a way to set a speaker in a novel apart from other characters. Not using contractions can make a character seem more formal, prissy, and/or snobbish.
|Examples of Omission / Contractions / Colloquialisms|
|am not, are not, has not, have not, is not||[Colloquial] ain’t|
|cannot have||[Colloquial] can’t’ve|
|could not have||[Colloquial] couldn’t’ve|
|Hallow even, Halloween||Hallowe’en|
|he had, he would||he’d|
|he is, he was||he’s|
|he will, he shall||he’ll|
|he will have, he shall have||[Colloquial] he’ll’ve|
|he would have||[Colloquial] he’d’ve|
|how has, how is, how was||how’s|
|I had, I would||I’d|
|I would have||[Colloquial] I’d’ve|
|I will, I shall||I’ll|
|I will have, I shall have||[Colloquial] I’ll’ve|
|it is not||it isn’t
|it was||[Archaic] ’twas|
|it had, it would||it’d|
|must not have||[Colloquial] mustn’t’ve|
|of the clock||o’clock|
|over||Archaic, Poetic, Literary: o’er|
|she is, she was||she’s|
|she had, she would||she’d|
|she will, she shall||she’ll|
|she would have||[Colloquial] she’d’ve|
|should not have||[Colloquial] shouldn’t’ve|
|that is, that was||that’s|
|there had, there would||there’d|
|there is, there was||there’s|
|they are, they were||they’re|
|they had, they would||they’d|
|they will, they shall||they’ll|
|we are, we were||we’re|
|we had, we would||we’d|
|we will have||[Colloquial] we’ll’ve|
|what will, what shall||what’ll|
|what are, what were||what’re|
|what is, what has||what’s|
|when has, when is||when’s|
|where is, where has||where’s|
|who had, who would||who’d|
|who will, who shall||who’ll|
|who will have, who shall have||[Colloquial] who’ll’ve|
|why are, why were||why’re|
|why is, why has||why’s|
|would not have||[Colloquial] wouldn’t’ve|
|you all would have||[Colloquial] y’all’d’ve|
|you had, you would||you’d|
|you will, you shall||you’ll|
|you will have||[Colloquial] you’ll’ve|
|you would have||[Colloquial] you’d’ve|
|Definition: Form the plural of letters, numbers, signs, and of words referred to as words, i.e., words that are not nouns, and hyphenated phrases.|
|UPPER- and lowercase Letters|
|Interior Periods||Rule: With interior periods.||Rule: Without interior periods.|
|Rule: Use an apostrophe to indicate missing numbers.||Rule: Referring to a time period is considered a plural. Do not use an ‘s when pluralizing decades or years.|
|the ’60s, ’80s, etc. [Informal] 1997 = ’97||1960s, 1880s, 900s, etc.|
Remember to dot all the is and cross all the ts in that letter.
Remember to dot all the i‘s and cross all the t‘s in that letter.
We need to connect the Xs and Ys.
|Arabic Numerals||Rule: When pluralizing Arabic numerals to be used as nouns.|
2s and 3s, or
2s and 3s.
|Spelled Out Numerals|
She was in her twenties or thirties back then.
|Rule: Pluralizing a word or hyphenated phrase that is not a noun.
Chicago slips between adding an s or es to make it plural or using an apostrophe. Maybe is definitely apostrophe-essed.
How many ands are in the second paragraph?
How many and’s are in the second paragraph?
There are too many maybe‘s in this plan.
If one uses too many maybe‘s, one should consider some yes‘s and no‘s as well.
There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Keep in mind the dos and don’ts for a tea party.
Yesses and noes are acceptable if maybe isn’t present.
We play bingo on Thursdays.
The Smiths are putting on a spread next week.
The Americans are playing the Australians next week.
Have you heard about the Thomases?
The Smiths and Joneses are going bankrupt.
|Rule: Ownership or possession is usually shown by the use of an apostrophe
s(‘s). For a more in-depth look, explore Possessive.
|arm’s length||Literally, the length of the arm, so that length belongs to the arm
As an idiom, it means to hold people away
|Smith’s pail||the pail belongs to a person whose last name is Smith|
|Joneses’ house||the house belongs to a group of people named Jones|
|steal someone’s thunder||take credit for someone else’s idea or work|
|cat’s in the cradle||Literally, it’s a contraction for cat is
As an idiom, it means someone is giving the millionth excuse
|Surnames of Non-English Origin|
|O’Bannion||The O’ is a replacement for Ó|
|L’Hereux||L’ means the with the apostrophe used to indicate a missing e (le) or a (la).|
|D’Angelo||an Italian name with the D’ indicating from or of.|
|M’Gregor||Evolved from a backwards apostrophe that became a superscript C with the current apostrophe replacing the missing letter|
|General Rule: When converting foreign words into English, apostrophes may be used to substitute for missing letters, to indicate a particular type of pronunciation or diacritic, or evidence of an elision (a missing sound or syllable).|