An English Pet Peeve- the Apostrophe

This article was originally posted on October 15, 2007. I want to talk about my #1 grammatical pet peeve. Now I don't claim to have perfect English, but I do strive to get this one particular thing mostly right because for some reason it bothers me more than other things. What I am referring to is... the dreaded... APOSTROPHE.

The majority of the mistakes with apostrophes that I see are made in relation to last names. For example, when you sign a letter: Love, The Smith's (WRONG), instead of Love, The Smiths (RIGHT!).

Let me clarify: Unless you are showing that you own something (like The Smiths' House), your last name should never have an apostrophe with it!!!!!!

So just a quick breakdown (and these are only the rules that I think are most pertinent).

The 2 uses of the apostrophe are: -To mark omission (in a contraction like "can't") - I think we all get this one. -To show possession (ownership) - I will focus on this one.

Possessive Apostrophes: For a singular noun, add apostrophe + s: cat's meow For a singular noun ending in s, there are 2 accepted possibilities: boss' shoes or boss's shoes For a plural noun without an s, add apostrophe + s: children's toys For normal plural nouns, add an apostrophe at the end: all my friends' kids (many friends)

I found this funny little example on Wikipedia:

Kingsley Amis, on being challenged to produce a sentence whose meaning depended on a possessive apostrophe, came up with:

  • "Those things over there are my husbands." (I'm married to those men over there.)

  • "Those things over there are my husband's." (Those things over there belong to my husband.)

I hope this clears it up! And if you often make the "last name mistake," please don't take offense to this post; I hope it helps!.