Apostrophes

Here’s the deal. Don’t use an apostrophe to simply indicate a plural, whether the plural word is a common noun or a proper noun.

  • Incorrect: I saw the Jones’ today
  • Correct: I saw the Joneses today

When it comes to pronouns, we don’t use apostrophes—unless we’re making a contraction, smooshing two words together.

  • Incorrect: Is that your’s or her’s?
  • Correct: Is that yours or hers?
  • Incorrect: Its one of those dogs that has it’s tail between it’s legs
  • Correct: It’s one of those dogs that has its tail between its legs

Tip: Avoid using the contraction it’s. Instead, use the pronoun its or spell out it is That way, you’ll avoid the mistake. I hope.

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29 Responses to Apostrophes

  1. chioma says:

    please what are the essential element for clarity of expression

  2. angie says:

    If I am saying someone’s last name, however it’s not possessive:
    The Pettits enjoyed the view.
    Do I use an apost.?
    Thanks.

  3. Karl says:

    Hi Angie,
    No, don’t use an apostrophe when you are simply referring to more than one person named Pettit. “The Pettits enjoyed the view” is correct. If the last name is Pettit and you want to use the possessive form of the plural, it would look like this: “The Pettits’ view was enjoyable.”

  4. amalia says:

    My child needs to know the uses of apostorphy after the word. I don’t know how to explain it to her. Can you please help us?

  5. Amalia, I can try to help. Can you give me more information about what your child needs to know?

  6. George Curtis says:

    I have struggled with the proper pronunciation of my last name regarding possession and plural usage.
    Is it the Curtises’ or Curtis’ home when refering to the home of my family? Such as “We are going to the Curtis’ party”. And if just refering to one of us, is it George Curtis’ or George Curtis’s book?

  7. Hi George, you have a lot of company.
    You would write:
    The Curtises’ home is on our streetGeorge Curtis’s book was a gift from the Queen of England.

  8. Marsha says:

    How does one show the plural of an abbreviated noun? For example Network Operation Control Center = NOCC. When referring to multiple NOCCs, should there be an apostrophe? NOCC’s… or just NOCCs? thank you

  9. Karl says:

    Hi Marsha,
    The trend seems to be going towards not using an apostrophe unless omitting it would lead to ambiguity. For your example, I would write, “NOCCs.”
    It helps to use upper-case letters for the abbreviation. In web development, for example, we often refer to multiple DIV elements, which (to me, at least) looks clearer written as “DIVs” than as “divs.”

  10. LP says:

    Ok, what do I do with a hash mark when I want to write
    PART #s
    PART #’s
    Which is correct?

  11. Michele says:

    I need some help. I am working at an ornament stand personalizing ornaments this year. Many people are getting family names on their ornaments and I want to write them correctly.
    Example: Would I just write: The Smiths or The Smith’s?
    What do I do if the last name is Devans?
    The Devans or The Devanses?
    Help! I want to have proper apostrophes for these keepsakes! :)
    Thanks.
    Michele

  12. Karl says:

    Hi Michele,
    You should write The Smiths and The Devanses.
    Don’t be surprised, though, if people question your judgment. Unfortunately, some don’t know what to do with their own last names.

  13. aj says:

    On the last name Klees do you use Klees’ or Klees’s when referring to?
    Thank you.
    Aj

  14. Karl says:

    John Klees is a fine young man.
    John Klees’s car is fast.
    We are going to see the Kleeses tonight.
    The Kleeses’ house is the third one on the right.

  15. Dawn says:

    I am so frustrated by the Christmas Cards this year!
    I can’t tell you how many cards came addressed to The Wood’s or from The Wood’s (for example). I’ve gotten so many that I’m beginning to doubt if I am actually in the right! Please tell me these cards should be addressed to The Woods or signed from The Woods. Is there any way that the previous could be correct? The Wood’s what? The Wood’s House? with House being understood?
    Help!

  16. Karl says:

    Hi Dawn,
    Is their last name Wood or Woods? The plural of Wood is Woods; the plural of Woods is Woodses. No apostrophes necessary.

  17. Dawn says:

    I am ordering a engraved stone for my sister and her husband as a house warming gift. The last name is Mercurio. Does the stone read, The Mercurios, The Mercurios’ or The Mercurio’s?
    Thanks!

  18. Karl says:

    The Mercurios

  19. Cuz_I'm_The_Mom says:

    This is one of those things that make me crazy. At craft fairs, stores, websites, and gift shops the trend to turn a surname into a possessive instead of pluralizing it is rampant. (Welcome to The Wilson’s!!!) There are many websites that sell custom made family name signs with the apostrophe. Should we all mount an email suggestion to these retailers to stop perpetuating the error?

  20. Britt Godchaux says:

    Hi Karl–
    I do not know if my name is an exception or what. Plural: Godchauxes? Like Foxes? That doesn’t look right. And when you say our name (like “nacho” with a g in front), it confuses the issues further because a name ending in a vowel sound would not require the added syllable for pluralization.
    Thanks for knowing these things so the rest of us can learn from you.
    Britt

  21. Mia says:

    Hey there,
    I’m writing my class syllabus and I am undecided about something. I am trying to indicate that we will be reading the writings of many artists. So far I have “Daily readings of artists’ writings, articles……..”
    Would that be the correct apostrophy usage?
    Mia

  22. James Roberts says:

    Consider:
    Mr. McGill
    Mrs. McGill
    “the McGill

  23. Chris says:

    Karl,
    For your entry in #7, I believe that ‘Curtis’s book’ should be replaced with ‘Curtis’ book’, following an old-english rule I have learned.
    Chris

  24. Karl says:

    Hi Chris,
    I don’t know what “old-english rule” you’re referring to, but contemporary usage indicates that Curtis’s is the preferred way to write it. See my other entry on this topic.

  25. Karl says:

    Chris,
    Even if they were referring to their store, they would still be wrong. They’d be incorrectly using a singular possessive form when they should use a plural possessive instead.

  26. sarah drew says:

    Hi
    I have a little boy called Lewis, if I am writing about him for example Lewis’s education, is that right, if I want to write Lewis’ toys, or Lewis’ excellent attendance. Can you explain It is driving me crazy.

  27. Anoop says:

    Hi
    Can you please tell me how I would write the following.
    “Anoop is asking all Bakranias to join the Bakranias United Group”
    Bakrania is the surname

  28. Marissa says:

    Hi
    I want to make Christmas cards this year and how I should spell our last name is driving me nuts. Our name is Marie and Antonio Cantu, so I would like to put Merry Xmas, Love The Cantus. Is that correct? (without an apostrophe)

  29. Karl says:

    Hi Marissa,
    Yes, that is correct: Cantus, without the apostrophe.