Gettin’ Short and Sweet with Apostrophes

An apostrophe () can show possession or indicate that letters or numbers have been omitted. They can also indicate ownership.

Possessive Nouns

When a singular noun doesn’t end in S, you just need to add an apostrophe and an S to make it possessive. Examples include “the boys bike,” “the dogs leash,” and “Bobs house.”

If a singular noun does end in S, you should add an apostrophe and an S to make the word possessive. Examples include “the classs field trip,” “the actresss award,” and “Rosss daughter.”

If a noun is plural and ends in S, you only need to add an apostrophe at the end to make it possessive. Examples include “the students tests,” “the girls backpacks,” and “the Morris car.”

In the case of irregular plural nouns that don’t end in S, add an apostrophe and an S to the word to make it possessive. Examples include “the childrens playground,” “the womens locker room,” and “the geeses habitat.”

Contractions

A contraction is a shortened version of two combined words. It uses an apostrophe to indicate where letters have been omitted. For example, I’m is a contraction meaning I am, and don’t is a contraction of do not.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has a good example of contraction use: “Its just that I can’’t think of a way to make him come out without him gettin us.” Let’s talk about gettin’. This is a case where an apostrophe shows that we’ve omitted a letter (without combining with another word). It shows that the last g was omitted from getting. Doing this lets the writer mimic realistic rural speech, which doesn’t always adhere to standard spelling or grammar.

Omission of Numbers

Apostrophes can also be used to indicate that the first two digits of a year have been omitted. You’ve probably seen this in cases like “the class of 93,” “the 08 election” and “the Roaring 20s.”