• Don't forget

Get your apostrophe right!

Don't let an incorrect apostrophe ruin your presentation

Apostrophes enable clarity in business writing. Sometimes it can still be clear what is meant, but sometimes not.

It's about standards too.

Here is your guide to using the apostrophe

 The apostrophe has 2 functions:
1. Contractions
2. Possession

 

Contractions

The apostrophe is used to indicate the missing letter, eg:

  • She's told him = She has told him
  • I'm here = I am here
  • I can't = I cannot
  • I wouldn't = I would not

Beware :

  • your = belonging to you; you're = you are
  • its = belonging to it; it's = it is or it has (its' does not exist)
  • there = over there; their = belonging to them; they're = they are

Possession

When the possessor is single (ie, just one person or thing), we indicate possession by using an apostrophe followed by the letter s:

  • The man's coat
  • My sister's hat
  • The lady's dress

When the possessors are plural (ie, more than one person or thing), we indicate possession by placing an apostrophe after the final s:

  • The girls' bicycles
  • My cousins' parents
  • The secretaries' desks

However:
when a word changes completely in the plural, the apostrophe remains before the s:

  • The men's books
  • The children's toys
  • The women's bags.

Apostrophes are not required where there is no possession eg:

  • The PAs visited the seminar.
  • The PCs were working well.
  • She was born in the 1960s.

If the subject is followed by a verb an apostrophe will probably not be needed, if it is followed by a noun then one may be required

 See also:

  • Chris's car (1 Chris)
  • Mr Bridges' car (1 Mr Bridges and we don't make the extra s sound)
  • The prince's car (1 prince)
  • The princes' car (2 or more princes but still 1 car)
  • The princess's car (1 princess)
  • The princesses' car (2 or more princesses but still 1 car)
  • The Joneses live next door (no possession but more than 1 person called Jones)
  • The Joneses' car (more than 1 person called Jones who share a car)

 

its = belonging to it (as in his, hers and its)
it's = it is or it has (its' does not exist)

your = belonging to you
you're = you are

there = over there
their = belonging to them
they're = they are

 

Find out much more about puncutation, grammar and business writing, including how to write persuasively, in Heather's book "Successful Business Writing"