Apostrophe Misuse (with Examples)
Apostrophe MisuseApostrophe misuse usually falls into one of the following four categories:
(1) Using an apostrophe for a plural.
- We have a two-for-one offer on banana's.
- We have a two-for-one offer on bananas.
- The boys' nose was covered in chocolate.
- The boy's nose was covered in chocolate.
- Your idea is'nt possible.
- Your idea isn't possible.
- You shouldn't've done it.
- You should not've done it.
- You shouldn't have done it.
More about These Apostrophe Misuses
(Misuse 1) Do Not Use an Apostrophe to Form a Plural NounDo not use an apostrophe to form a plural. (It is considered a serious misuse of the apostrophe.) For example:
- Dog's look up to us, and cat's look down on us. I prefer pig's because they treat us as equal's. (These are all wrong.)
- Dogs look up to us, and cats look down on us. I prefer pigs because they treat us as equals.
- Two CD's for the price of one
- two video's
- two patio's
Read about the rules for forming plurals.
Read about using apostrophes for awkward plurals.
(Misuse 2) When Using an Apostrophe for Possession, Put It on the Correct Side of the SHere are some examples of possessive apostrophes being misused:
- My smallest dogs' nose is white.
- Both of my dog's noses are white.
- Support our childrens' education.
Here's the general rule for nouns that form their plural by adding an "s" or "es," which is most of them:
- The cat's dinner (for one cat)
- The cats' dinner (for more than one cat) (It does not matter whether "dinner" is singular or plural. It has no influence whatsoever on the apostrophe.)
- I live a stone's throw away. (for one stone)
- The stones' history is fascinating. (for more than one stone)
Read more about the possessive case.
Unfortunately, there are a few more rules on possessive-apostrophe placement:
Do some exercises on using apostrophes.
(Misuse 3) When Forming a Contraction, Put the Apostrophe in the Correct PlaceWhen forming a contraction, make sure you use the apostrophe to replace the missing letter(s). It's not a common mistake, but it's a bad mistake. For example:
- Your answer is'nt accurate.
- Your'e going to pay for that!
(Misuse 4) Do Not Invent Your Own ContractionsApostrophes can be used to replace letters to form contractions (e.g., can't, don't, isn't, shan't). There is a list of acceptable contractions. You cannot invent your own ones. For example:
- I wouldn't've gone if I had known.
- Can you play the g'tar?
The History of the Possessive ApostropheThe principal function of an apostrophe is to replace a missing letter (e.g., don't, isn't). This is related to the possessive apostrophe.
In old English, possession was shown by adding "es" to the possessor regardless of whether the possessor was singular or plural. For example:
- cates dinner
- catses dinner
- menes dinner
- Joneseses dinner
This process still works for everything. There are no exceptions.
(1) Add es to the possessor
(2) Replace the e with '
(3) If left with s's, delete the last s