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4 Jul

Apostrophes

Apostrophes

Misuse of apostrophes is the classic mistakes which picky grammarians use to fuel their campaign about the importance of correct punctuation. Of course, the two instances in which the apostrophe is commonly used are to indicate missing letters in an abbreviation (eg don’t, won’t, can’t, shouldn’t, that’s) and to indicate possession – something belonging to someone or being a quality of a particular person or thing (eg the boy’s shoes, the woman’s car, the dog’s friendliness, the flower’s beauty). 

In academic writing the convention is to avoid abbreviated forms like can’t, don’t and that’s. This is mainly to ensure clarity in the text. If you have contracted terms in your essay, it is probably worth replacing them with the full form to be in line with academic presentation (eg cannot, do not, that is).

When a plural noun is being used in the possessive, often the apostrophe must come after the s. This is in order to indicate that the noun is in the plural (eg the boys’ shoes shows more than one boy and their shoes (whereas the boy’s shoes indicates only one boy), the dogs’ friendliness indicates more than one dog which is friendly (whereas the dog’s friendliness refers to only one dog) and the flowers’ beauty indicates more than one flower (whereas the flower’s beauty demonstrates that it is a single flower which is beautiful)). When a nouns has a plural form which does not involve adding an s (eg woman/women) then ‘s is inserted to indicate possession as normal (eg the women’s car – meaning the car belonging to the women).

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