The apostrophe

   By Corley Tweedy

   Copy Editor

Greetings fellow students, and welcome families and community members!

   This week we are going to delve into the wonderful world of written grammar, starting with punctuation. The many dos and don’ts in the English language, and many loose suggestions, confuse the heck out of so many innocent writers, scaring them away from the wonderful realm of writing forever. However, my topic this week is one of the most firm when it comes to grammar rules, as only one among them is debatable, the others are concrete. This week’s topic is vastly and egregiously misused:  the apostrophe.

   The apostrophe is drastically overused in writing today. In my mind, it is very simple to remember when to use one and when to just let it go. Random House Reference gives a few very clear guidelines in their Guide to Punctuation: an apostrophe is used in contractions to show where letters or numbers have been omitted; an apostrophe is used when making letters or numbers plural; an apostrophe plus s is added to show possession. Those are the simple rules of apostrophes.

   Almost everyone knows how to use apostrophes for contraction: “I am” becomes “I’m,” “do not” becomes “don’t”—it’s quite simple. Where people tend to trip up is in the art of showing possession. The dog that Sarah owns is “Sarah’s dog,” right? Of course. The supervisor of the department is the “department’s supervisor.” That may seem relatively self-explanatory, and to many it is not a problem. However there are several more nuances that not everyone observes.

   One in particular that really gets under my skin is when people use an apostrophe when addressing an envelope. My family received a thank you note recently, addressed to “The Tweedy’s.” My grammatical mind’s first thought was “the Tweedy’s what?” Then I realized that the sender was not referring to anything of ours; she had merely mislabeled the envelope. It should’ve simply read “The Tweedys,” since it was a note addressed to my family.

   Granted, it is a confusing thing to keep in mind. See, if she were paying a visit to our house, she would say “I am going to the Tweedy’s,” since she would be visiting the house that belongs to us. This I think is the most confusing of the apostrophe rules.

   And another thing—it’s versus its. Please don’t mix up the two. It is confusing at first, but it is easy to master. It’s is a contraction of it is. Its is possessive. Only use an apostrophe when you have a contraction. Only.

   The other rules are not as complex. Add an apostrophe to a number or letter to make it plural—crazy 8’s or VIP’s. We touched on possession earlier—just add apostrophe plus s. If the word ends in an s, then just add an apostrophe—Jess’ room.

   It’s really not a hard concept once you get it down. Like I keep saying, practice.

Comments are closed.