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POSTED 5.10.2018

How to use an apostrophe

Ok, we know this isn’t the sexiest subject in the world and this blog is not going to get our SEO ratings soaring — how many of you found this by googling ‘how to use an apostrophe’? — but we just have to talk about one of the most misused punctuation marks in history.

By Martha Kearns

Working as journalists, one of the most frustrating parts of the job was getting press releases with loads of grammatical errors in it. Alright, so we had little to worry about but, as people who work with words every day, it can really get under your skin. And the humble apostrophe was the worst offender.

Don’t tell me that it doesn’t annoy you when you see a café advertising that it sells “scone’s” or “todays special’s”? It’s exactly the same when a potential client or customer is looking at your business’ website or advertising material — it can indicate that you are sloppy or don’t care enough about what you do to check back over your content.

So, this blog is going to look at the apostrophe, common mistakes and simple rules to follow to make sure using the character won’t be a headache in the future. So here goes:

Is it plural?

If it is DON’T use an apostrophe. E.g. ‘There were two scones in the basket’ not ‘There were two scone’s in the basket’.

Is it indicating possession?

If it is, then DO use an apostrophe. E.g. “They were my mother’s scones” not “They were my mothers scones”.

This is a tricky one.

If it is plural and possessive, then what? You put the apostrophe after the ‘s’ E.g. “They were actually my friends’ scones” not “They were actually my friend’s scones” (which indicates one person not a number of friends.

Are you still with me? No? OK, let’s try a few easier ones…

Names ending with ‘s’.

E.g. “Francis’ blog was so boring” or “Francis’s blog was amazing”. You’ll be glad to know that both are correct — just be consistent.


No, not when a pregnant woman is in labour but when a word like “cannot” becomes “can’t” — you use the character to show you have shortened the word.

It’s or its?

One of the most misused phrases. It’s is another contraction and is short for it is — and that is the only reason for putting an apostrophe in its so stop doing it!

Lastly, the simplest rule of all is:

When in doubt, leave it out. More often than not, you don’t need an apostrophe so you have a better chance of being right — and won’t annoy other people — if you drop it altogether.

So, that wasn’t too bad was it? But if punctuation, grammar and content in general is still wrecking your head, contact us and see how we can help!