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Apostrophe

The apostrophe ( ' )is used to

a) indicate nouns and indefinite pronouns which show ownership.
's is added to nouns and indefinite pronouns unless they already end in -s. In this case, only the apostrophe is added after the final -s.

Examples

    Tom's wallet was stolen.
    The children's toys were colorful.
    Everyone's job was to clean the kitchen.
    The boys' cat finally came home.
    James' dinner was cold.

Note: Possessive personal pronouns (his, hers, its, ours, yours, theirs) do not contain apostrophes.

b) indicate individual ownership for words in a series; to indicate joint ownership for words in a series.

Examples

    Individual Ownership: Tim's and Chris' books were left on the table.
    Joint Ownership: Tim and Chris' book was left on the table.

c) indicate a contraction by replacing the omitted letters or numbers.

Examples

    did not = didn't
    they are = they're
    of the clock = o'clock
    madam = ma'am
    I will = I'll
    Class of 1971 = Class of '71

d) form plurals of a letter, numeral, or words considered as one word. The letters, numerals, and words but not the apostrophe and s are italicized.

Examples

    Watch your p's and q's.
    His 5's resemble his 8's.
    I haven't written my thank you's yet.

Exceptions Example
Abbreviations with periods are not italicized. Johanna and Steven received their Ph.D's.
Abbreviations and acronyms without periods do not contain the apostrophe in the plural form. We have two VCRs in our house.
My brother found my IOUs in his wallet.
Decades do not include an apostrophe. The 1960s were a tumultuous ten years.

More punctuation guides
Writing & Reading Tutoring webpage

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