An apostrophe can be used to replace a letter (or letters). For example:
- isn't (from is not)
- don't (from do not)
- can't (from cannot)
Apostrophes Replace Missing LettersAn apostrophe can be used to show that a letter (or letters) is missing from a word.
Using an apostrophe to replace a missing letter is not common in formal writing, where you'd expect all words to be written in full. (Using an apostrophe to replace a letter is extremely common, but it is generally reserved for informal writing. It is used to reflect how people speak.)
(In this example, the apostrophe replaces the letter i, and the two words are joined to make one. The new word is called contraction.)
In this example, the apostrophe replaces the letter o, and the two words are joined to make a contraction.)
Apostrophe error found in a Christmas cracker
Only Use Apostrophes to Replace Letters in Standard ContractionsWhen an apostrophe replaces a letter, a new word is formed (most often, but not always, using the remaining letters of the original words). The new word is called a contraction.
You cannot invent your own contractions. Here is a list of common contractions in English:
DO NOT CONFUSE YOU'RE AND YOUR
You're is short for you are. For example:
DO NOT CONFUSE IT'S AND ITS
It's is short for it has or it is. (There are no other uses.) For example:
DO NOT WRITE SHOULD OF
Should've sounds like should of, but it is short for should have. (This is the same for could've and would've.)
As an expansion of can't, cannot is one word.
NO APOSTROPHE IN OURS
Words like ours, theirs, yours, and hers do not have apostrophes in them.
DON'T INVENT CONTRACTIONS
Words with apostrophes that replace letters are known as contractions. You should only use recognized ones:
In business writing, it is unusual to use contractions because they can make your writing look too informal. It is a good practice to play it safe and write all words in their full forms.
The apostrophe error with plurals
Apostrophes in time (temporal) expressions
Apostrophes to show the plural of abbreviations
Apostrophes show possession