Possessive Apostrophe

Signs are a great place to search for errors in apostrophe use. Below are just a few examples of the incorrect use of the apostrophe.

No dog’s

Copy your DVD ‘s

Womens Sportswear

Taxi’s Only

Used Car’s

Correct these errors and check your answers at the bottom of this article.

Using an apostrophe shows the possessive form of nouns. Nouns are names for something, and the following are examples of nouns: computer, desk, car, printer, idea. To show possession, one noun must own or possesses another noun or indicate a relationship between two nouns. Always look for the possessor of an item, which receives the apostrophe. The item possessed never receives the apostrophe.

Form the possessive of a singular noun by adding an apostrophe and s (‘s).

Examples: the assistant’s computer, the manager’s office, the company’s employees, the customer’s payments, the committee’s decision.

One way to test whether you have a possessive noun is to interchange the two nouns and put the word “of” between them. If the “of” phrase sounds all right in a sentence, you have a possessive case noun.

Examples: computer of the assistant, office of the manager, employees of the company, payments of the customer, decisions of the committee.

Form the possessive of a plural noun ending in s by adding only an apostrophe (‘). For plurals that do not end in s, add an apostrophe and an s (‘s). A plural noun names two or more persons, places, things, ideas, or qualities.

Examples: businesses’ earnings, the committees’ decisions, the visitors’ log, the Joneses’ car, the men’s locker room, the women’s online forum, the children’s play area.

Indicate joint ownership by using an apostrophe in the last of two or more names.

Examples: Mary and Rita’s reports (Mary and Rita had reports that belonged to them jointly.)

Kim and Kerry’s car (Kim and Kerry had a car that belonged to them jointly.)

John and Teresa’s home (John and Teresa had a home that belonged to them jointly.)

Indicate separate ownership by using an apostrophe in all names or persons or companies.

Examples: Mary’s and Rita’s reports (Mary and Rita each had a separate report or reports.)

Kim’s and Kerry’s cars (Kim and Kerry had separate cars.)

Dell’s and Apple’s computers (Dell has computers, and Apple has computers.)

the city’s or the county’s responsibility (The city has responsibility, and the county has responsibility.)

Use the form that the company, organization, or association displays on its logo, product, or letterhead. Some use apostrophe and s (‘s) and others do not.

Examples: Reader’s Digest, Ladies’ Home Journal, American Bankers Association, Citizens Political Committee, Pringles potato chips, Bloomingdale’s, Pikes Peak

From the possessive of a singular abbreviation by adding an apostrophe and s (‘s). Form the possessive of a plural abbreviation by adding only an apostrophe (‘).

Examples: CEO’s salary, CPA’s office, Hamilton T. Barnes Jr.’s opinion, The New York Times’ editorial page, The World Bank’s headquarters

The following abbreviations do not require an apostrophe:

I learned computer software using interactive CDs. (not CD’s)

The PCs in our office are up to date. (not PC’s)

Tina started working for our company during the 1990s, (not 1990’s).

Using apostrophes correctly helps you communicate better and makes reading easier for your audience. For additional information about the apostrophe, see The Gregg Reference Manual. To see additional examples of apostrophe misuse, go to The Apostrophe Protection Society of England at http://www.apostrophe.fsnet.co.uk/

Correct answers:

No dogs

Copy your DVDs

Women’s Sportswear

Taxis Only

Used Cars

Jaderstrom and Miller are coauthors of The Complete Office Handbook (Random House) and Business English at Work(Glencoe/McGraw- Hill).

Copyright Professional Secretaries International Aug/Sep 2005