The Apostrophe

The apostrophe is primarily the sign of the possessive case, but it has

several other uses.

_Rules for the Use of the Apostrophe_

1. The apostrophe for the possessive case is added only to nouns, not to

the pronouns, which have their distinct possessive forms. _Its_ is a

possessive pronoun. _It's_ is an abbreviation for _it is_. Do not use an

apostrophe with the possessive adjectives _hers_, _ours_, _yours_,

_theirs_, _its_.

2. All nouns in the singular and all nouns in the plural except those

ending in _s_ take an apostrophe and _s_ to form the possessive.

Nouns in the plural ending in _s_ take an apostrophe only to form the


There is much difference of opinion as to the invariability of the rule

concerning singular nouns in _s_. DeVinne advises following the

pronunciation. Where the second _s_ is not pronounced, as often happens,

to avoid the prolonged hissing sound of another _s_, he recommends

omitting it in print.

Moses' hat, for Moses's hat.

For conscience' sake.

3. The apostrophe indicates the omission of letters in dialect, in

familiar dialogue, and in poetry.

That's 'ow 'tis.

'Twas ever thus.

When two words are practically made into one syllable, a thin space may

be put before the apostrophe, except that _don't_, _can't_, _won't_, and

_shan't_ are consolidated. This use of a space serves to distinguish

between the possessive in _s_ and the contraction of _is_.

Where death 's abroad and sorrow 's close behind.

4. Figures expressing dates are often abbreviated, but it is not good

general practice.

The boys of '61.

It happened in '14.

5. The apostrophe is used to form the plural of letters and figures.

Cross your t's and dot your i's.

Make 3's and 5's more plain.

Except in these cases the apostrophe is not a plural sign and should be

so used only when it is intended to reproduce a dialect or


Wrong: All the Collins's were there.

Right: All the Collinses were there.

The final _ed_ of past tenses and past participles was formerly

pronounced as a distinct syllable, thus: _clos-ed_, _belov-ed_, and this

pronunciation continued in common use in poetry long after it was

discontinued in prose. During this period of transition the modern

pronunciation was indicated by dropping the _e_ and using an apostrophe,

thus: _clos'd_, _belov'd_. It is now understood that while the full

spelling is to be used, the old pronunciation is not to be used unless

specially indicated by placing a grave accent over the _e_ of the last

syllable, thus: _beloved_.

At the same period poets, especially, used an apostrophe to indicate a

silent _e_ as in _ev'ry_, but the usage is now obsolete.

Such abbreviations as _Dep't_, _Gov't_, _Sec'y_, and the like, are

objectionable in print. If such abbreviations are necessary it is better

to use the forms _Dept._, _Govt._, _Secy._

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