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This Guide was created as a joint project of the Academic Resource Center and the William H. Hannon Library.

Directed Learning: Apostrophes


In Contractions
Place the apostrophe in the spot where a letter(s) has been removed to make a contraction.
It is = it’s, there is = there’s, cannot = can’t, was not = wasn’t

Tip: The number one mistake writers make is to use the word it’s when they should write its or your when they should write you’re. Read your sentence adding the word that a contraction has deleted to determine if it makes sense.

To Show Possession
For singular nouns, add an apostrophe and an s.
My dog’s fur is long and curly.
My boss’s office is large and dark.
Nicholas’s backpack was left in the car.
The decision is the jury’s.
It is anyone’s guess.

Exception: to avoid awkward pronunciation, you may omit the final s.
Socrates’ writings are famous worldwide just as Dickens’ are.

For plural nouns that end in s, add ONLY an apostrophe to show possession.
The students’ party went late into the night.
The cardinals’ conclave will meet in secrecy.
The Smiths’ boat is small but functional.

For plural nouns that don’t end in s, add an apostrophe and an s.
The children’s costumes were wonderful.
The men’s choir is fabulous.

Do NOT use apostrophes for possessive forms of personal pronouns.

Possesive Pronouns Contractions
its it's (it is)
their they're (they are)
theirs there's (there is)
your you're (you are)
whose who's (who is)

Plurals of numbers, letters, symbols and words referred to as words
There is no consensus on whether to add an apostrophe and an s to the above, but there is some agreement for numbers. Do not add an apostrophe.
The 1920s is known as the Jazz Age.
The skater only wanted to get perfect 10s.

The word committee has two m’s, two t’s, and two e’s.
Jacquelyn counted 45 yes’s and 38 no’s.

Directed Learning Activity: Apostrophes