Thursday, September 24, 2009

Apostrophes - Comma Bats

Apostrophes remind me of comma bats, commas that hang upside down. There are rules that decide where and when apostrophes are used.

Rule 1. Use an apostrophe in contractions. The apostrophe is always placed at the spot where the letter(s) has been removed.
Examples: don't, isn't; You're right. She's a great teacher.

Rule 2. Use an apostrophe to show possession. Place the apostrophe before the s to show singular possession, unless the singular noun ends in an s, then place the apostrophe after the final s.
Examples: one girl's book; one woman's hat; one actress' hat; one child's hat; Ms. Chang's house
NOTE: Nouns ending in s or an s sound are not required to have the second s added in possessive form.

Rule 3. Use the apostrophe where the noun that should follow is implied.
Example: This was his father's, not his jacket.

Rule 4. To show plural possession, make the noun plural first. Then immediately use the apostrophe.
Examples: two girls' books; two women's hats; two actresses' hats; two children's hats; the Changs' house; the Joneses' golf clubs; the Strauses' daughter; the Rogeres' car.

Rule 5. Do not use an apostrophe for the plural of a name.
Examples: We visited the Sanchezes in Los Angeles.The Changs have two cats and a dog.

Rule 6. With a singular compound noun, show possession with 's at the end of the word.
Example: my mother-in-law's hat

Rule 7. If the compound noun is plural, form the plural first and then use the apostrophe.
Example: my two brothers-in-law's hats

Rule 8. Use the apostrophe and s after the second name only if two people possess the same item.
Examples: Cesar and Maribel's home is constructed of redwood. Cesar's and Maribel's job contracts will be renewed next year. Indicates separate ownership.

Cesar and Maribel's job contracts will be renewed next year. Indicates joint ownership of more than one contract.

Rule 9. Never use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns: his, hers, its, theirs, ours, yours, whose.They already show possession so they do not require an apostrophe.
Examples:
Correct: This book is hers, not yours.
Incorrect: Sincerely your's.

Rule 10. The only time an apostrophe is used for it's is when it is a contraction for it is or it has.
Examples: It's a nice day. It's your right to refuse the invitation. It's been great getting to know you.

Rule 11. The plurals for capital letters and numbers used as nouns are not formed with apostrophes.
Examples: She consulted with three M.D.s. BUT She went to three M.D.s' offices. The apostrophe is needed here to show plural possessive.
She learned her ABCs. the 1990s not the 1990's; the '90s or the mid-'70s not the '90's or the mid-'70's
She learned her times tables for 6s and 7s.
Exception: Use apostrophes with capital letters and numbers when the meaning would be unclear otherwise.
Examples: Please dot your i's. (You don't mean is.) Ted couldn't distinguish between her 6's and 0's.(You don't mean Os.)

Rule 12. Use the possessive case in front of a gerund (-ing word).
Examples: Alex's skating was a joy to behold. This does not stop Joan's inspecting of our facilities next Thursday.

Rule 13. If the gerund has a pronoun in front of it, use the possessive form of that pronoun.
Examples: I appreciate your inviting me to dinner. I appreciated his working with me to resolve the conflict.

Knowing where and when to use those bat commas is a matter of study and practice.



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14 comments:

Paul McDermott said...

Hi, Vivian!
Don't you sometimes feel like King Canute, holding back the tide?
If people don't take the time and trouble to use our rich and wonderful language correctly, it is in danger of beingeradicated and reduced to a pathetic version of txtspk ...
Curiously, something I was writing last night caused me to stop and think, and you use EXACTLY the phrase I wanted in your Ex. 12:-
Alex's skating was a joy to behold.
In my case, I initially wrote Alex' - and it "looked right"
Then I tried Alex's - and THAT "looked right", too!

The only thing I didn't consider was the "plural" version (Alexs') which is grammatically impossible anyway - it would imply a cheaper-by-the-dozen plurality of girls with the same name

Beth Bence Reinke said...

Thanks for the apostrophe review, Vivian. Comma bats? You must be thinking ahead to Halloween. :o)

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

Great article, Vivian.
And, including examples makes it all easier to understand.

Thanks,
Karen

Anonymous said...

Rule 3. Use the apostrophe where the noun that should follow is implied.

Example: This was his father's, not his, jacket.

This confuses me. Isn't father's a possessive? Couldn't you also say: This was his father's jacket, not his. I'm missing the implied noun idea.

Vivian Zabel said...

Sorry, for Rule 3, the comma after his shouldn't be there.

Anonymous said...

I'm still confused. Father's is a possessive so Rule 2 applies. Is Rule 3 saying to use the 's even if the object of possession in not written?

Rule 3 without the example sounds like a variation of a contraction, use the apostrophe to mark an omitted word.

As you can tell I'm quite punctuation challenged.

Vivian Zabel said...

I'm sorry that I can't explain any better. I don't how else to explain. Father's doesn't have an object written to possess - not directly.

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks. I wasn't sure how they interact with numbers and abbreviations, so this really helps.

Franny Armstrong-ParaNovelGirl said...

Awesome breakdown. Who knew that bats had commas? SQUEEEE...

Anyhow, thank you for the valuable information, Vivian. One can never learn too much as an author.

Hugs
Franny Armstrong-ParaNovelGirl
www.paranovelgirls.com

Marvin D Wilson said...

Very good tutorial, Vivian. I bookmarked the permalink for reference - THAT good! ;)

The Old Silly

Vivian Zabel said...

I studied grammar and punctuation from the time I started talking because my mother was an English expert. I was fortunate to have excellent English and grammar teachers throughout school, 1st grade through 12th and then all the years of college. After all my years of studying, I taught for nearly 30 years, studying as I went.

I feel I need to share what I know with others, especially writers.

Watch for further posts about other punctuation and grammar problem areas.

If my chance you missed the post about plain ole commas, you can find it through the like below this article: To Comma or Not to Comma, That is the Question.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Thanks for this helpful review of rules I should know, but I sometimes slip up on.

Rena said...

Thanks, Vivian!

Holly Jahangiri said...

I LOVE your term "comma bats"! Hangin' from the rafters where they don't belong!

Great article, Viv. This is a very useful reference.