10 rules for using the apostrophe

You didn’t come of age in the 1980’s—it was the 1980s. No apostrophe. That rule, and nine more.

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There are definite rules for its use, but many writers use commas subjectively, leading to disagreement (and acrimony) whenever writers or editors discuss this modest punctuation mark.

This week, I’m tackling another punctuation mark—the apostrophe. The rules for the apostrophe are much more definite, but they are frequently misapplied. So misunderstanding often ensues when it comes to the apostrophe.

Here are some rules for its use.

1. An apostrophe is used to show the possessive case of proper nouns.

• Allison Jones’ article (one person named Jones)
• The Joneses’ article
(two or more people named Jones)

2. If a singular or plural word does not end in s, add ‘s to form the possessive.

• a child’s wants
• the men’s concerns
• the people’s choice
• everyone’s answer

3. If a proper noun or name ends in a silent s, z, or x, add an ‘s

• Theroux’s “The Mosquito Coast”

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