Apostrophes seem to pop up in surprising places. If you’re learning English as a second language, or even if you’re a lifelong English speaker, it’s a good idea to review the rules of apostrophe usage. The rules are relatively simple, and once you learn them you’ll never wonder again if you should or shouldn’t use an apostrophe.
DO use apostrophes to show possession. When you’re showing possession, use “ ’S ” after a noun. For example: The ring belonging to Jacob → Jacob’s ring The car that Sheryl owns → Sheryl’s car
If the noun ends with an S, add the apostrophe after the S but don’t add an additional S. The shirt that belongs to Ross → Ross’ shirt The computer that the twins own → The twins’ computer
If the noun is plural, add the apostrophe after the pluralized noun if ending in S. No added S is needed. However, if the plural is irregular, you add an “ ’S. ” The costumes belonging to the actors → the actors’ costumes (regular plural) The laughter coming from children→ the children’s laughter (irregular plural)
In general, DON’T use apostrophes to make a word plural. People often mistakenly use apostrophes to make singular words plural. This is incorrect! “ ’S ” conveys possession and will indicate possession, not pluralization, to the reader. For example: I bought apple’s, banana’s, and carrot’s at the store. This is incorrect. No apostrophes are needed! Here’s the correctly written sentence: I bought apples, bananas, and carrots at the store.
Exceptions: As with many rules in the English language, there are exceptions. The exception in this case, however, is extremely logical. If the plural of the term without the apostrophe could be confused with another word, then you should use an apostrophe to clarify that it is a plural and not the other word. Consider the following:
A’s without the apostrophe would be confused for “as.” When writing letters, if the standard plural form (adding S) creates a word that looks like a different word—e.g. Is—it is 100% OK to use an apostrophe. “Dot your I’s!”
Do’s without the apostrophe would be confused for “dos.” You’ll see an example of this in the blog title: Do’s and don’ts. The apostrophe in “do’s” is acceptable because it could be misread as the Spanish word “dos” without the apostrophe or as short form for the early operating system, MS-DOS. “Don’ts,” however, does not need an apostrophe before the S to make it plural.
DO use apostrophes to show that a letter has been removed. When you combine two words into one, you often use an apostrophe in place of the omitted letters. This is called a contraction. For example: Do + not = Don’t They + are = They’re It + is/has = It’s The exception to this rule is won’t, which is the contraction of will + not and has a stem change.