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4 Apostrophe Work-Arounds When You're Not Sure What's Correct

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

Listen, I may be a grammar nerd but I'm not a grammar fascist. I'm happy to boldly split an infinitive and I love a dangling preposition for you to hang on to. (If you're a fellow nerd, I hope you can spot what I did there...). All the same, there are some rules that - if you break them - may make you look less intelligent than you really are.

But heck, it's HARD to remember rules, right? Especially those pesky ones that trip you up. So here, for you, are 4 apostrophe work-arounds, gleaned from my many years' work as an English teacher, to use when you're not sure what's correct.

1. IT'S and ITS. This is a tough one. Because you may know that It's is short for It is. But in the moment of writing it's easy to forget and make a clanger like The spider made it's web. Doh! Work-around: If you're not sure, leave it out. Yes, you may well be wrong and write Its a beautiful day today. But that lack of apostrophe doesn't stand out as much as one that's been flung in carelessly.

2. Repeat this for all 'S words if you're unsure. For example, is it My mothers birthday today or My mother's birthday today? (In any case, don't forget her blimmin' birthday, or there'll be trouble). Likewise, do you write My brothers are millionaires or My brother's are millionaires? And is it my brothers yacht or my brothers' yacht or my brother's yacht? Again, if you're not sure then leave out the apostrophe. And ask your brothers to pay for your mother's birthday present. (They can take her out in the yacht - your brothers' yacht because there are two of them. I know it's tricky. That's why you need a workaround!)

3. What about in negatives - those uncertain shouldn't and don't and aren't words? This one is easier - the apostrophe replaces the letter o. So always put that little ' between the n and the t. Or, to make it easier, before the t. Job done.

4. My students often get confused over whether he's refers to he is or he has. And the same goes for she's. For example, he's gone to Ireland or she's been working all day. If you're uncertain, keep the apostrophe and don't write it out in a longer form. (Those two examples are has because they are part of the present perfect tense. Don't get me started on tenses!)

OK, there you go. Four apostrophe work-arounds to use when you're unsure. And believe me, that apostrophe 's is a killer. So don't sweat it if you're uncertain. Instead, ask me to write stuff for you. Because I love words, punctuation and grammar. Leave all that with me.

Discover how I can help you with writing stress right here.

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