Perfecting Punctuation – How to Put the Apostrophe to Work

The Apostrophe has been around for quite a bit-say since the 16th century. At that time, the tiny curlicue punctuation mark held the intent purpose of signifying ‘omission. ‘ Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, and even Sir Thomas More plugged in ‘ (the apostrophe) whenever they made a decision to eliminate letters from words. William Shakespeare proved the apostrophe’s really worth in A Lover’s Complaint, “Sometimes her levell’d eyes their carriage ride;… Sometime diverted their poor tennis balls are tied To th’ orbed planet;… anon their gazes lend To every place at once, and nowhere fix’d, Your brain and sight distractedly commix’d. inch Shakespeare thoroughly demonstrated his capability to remove letters and provide a virtual garden for the growth of the apostrophe.

Through the centuries, as writers’ and publishers’ affection of this tiny type of punctuation grew, so did its many uses. The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th Edition, dedicates an overall total of twenty entries on how better to employ the apostrophe. British Favorite, Lynne Truss, demonstrates a further and superlative understanding of the apostrophe in her work Eats, Shoots, plus Leaves, which notes eight different uses for this punctuation.

Today, most English punctuation is used for convenience’s sake. Sometimes, correctly, more often than not the punctuation usage is flawed. By exploring a few of the basics regarding the apostrophe’s purpose, a writer can enhance clarity and strive for perfect punctuation.

Beginning with the most obvious and original use of the apostrophe: utilization of this mark for the omission or removal of letters. Common spasms could not exist without the apostrophe. One letter can be replaced by the punctuation, but at times, a solitary apostrophe counts for more than one letter. Some of the more popular contractions are: Don’t (do not), Can’t (can not), I have (I have), He’s (he is), Won’t (will not), Couldn’t, Shouldn’t, Wouldn’t (could not, should not, would certainly not), and then the proverbially confusing it’s (it is). This final contraction is often mistaken for the British possessive cousin of… that’s right-“its”.

For a moment, review it’s versus its. One perfect punctuation principle can be applied when considering how to apostrophe or how not to apostrophe in regards to “it. ” “It’s” purpose can be simple-the contraction for IT IS or even IT HAS. An example, “IT IS a long way to the park” utilizes the pronoun IT and the verb IS. Now, apply the contraction and the sentence becomes, “IT’S a long way to the park”. When IT is joined with IS or HAS, then a contraction of “IT’S” can be interchanged. For each and every additional time that an “ITS” is required, do not use an apostrophe-for any reason. In order to be clear… there is no such phrase as ITS’. It simply will not exist and a writer’s eye should recognize the atrocity and hit it from writing.

The second most common use for the apostrophe is to show possession-who or what owns something or other. Possession may seem obvious cut until the apostrophe enters the particular scene. Many a writer has been fallen in their tracks by this little grammatical mark. Breaking down the differences in between singular noun and plural noun possession can make the apostrophe’s use easier to understand. Examples of a singular noun possession could be: Joe’s house (the house of Joe), Mildred’s restaurant (the restaurant of Mildred), or even Sally’s kids (yes, those noisy ankle-biters belong to Sally). The use of the apostrophe seems straight forward when coping with a single owner. Add the apostrophe and an “S” and the singular possession is complete. What happens, however , when that same singular noun, which holds possession, ends in the letter “S”? When Jess possesses the house, where does the curly mark go and is another “S” added or not? “Jess’s house” could be the proper punctuation for this sentence. Tuck the apostrophe behind the last notice of the noun, and then add a good “S” to complete the formation regarding possession.

This leads to the last category for possession: handling of plural nouns. When dealing with plural nouns, which hold possession, such as, “Children, Men, Women”, where does the apostrophe land? Utilize the same rule of adding an apostrophe behind the final letter of the noun, then add a good “S” and consider it a job well done. The result will be: children’s books, mens ties, women’s shelter. For one final twist on plural possession, think about any plural noun that leads to a “S”, and there are plenty to get consideration, such as, Senior Students Dancing, Dogs Play Area, Members Hotel, Legislators Study Group. Not to confuse the issue or leave anyone out, ask one clarifying question: Could it be one student or many college students attending the dance? One canine or many dogs allowed to perform? One member or many allowed in the lodge? And finally, one can wish that all legislators would find time to study. If the answer is more compared to one of anything showing possession, and that plural noun ends in “S”, after that slap the apostrophe behind the last “S” and stop. The resulting punctuation becomes: “Senior Students’ Dance”, “Dogs’ Play Area”, “Members’ Lodge” and “Legislators’ Study Group.
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Intended for writers who are actively engaged in perfecting the written word, consider the importance of the apostrophe and its correct utilization. A simple Google request on the curly mark and over three million hits return. For such a tiny punctuation mark, the world clambers to have an easy and accurate way to put the apostrophe to work. Consider two of the apostrophe’s basic uses in omission and possession and any writer can be well on the way to perfecting punctuation.