It is amazing how much trouble apostrophes cause, given that they have only two possible uses. They can show that:

  • Letters are missing
    Cont’d = continued; don’t = do not; you’re = you are; it’s = it is; who’s = who is
  • Something belongs to something else
    Apostrophe-s (Jim’s) or s-apostrophe (Keats’) shows possession. x’s y can always be expressed as “the y that belongs to x” or “the y of x” (although it might sound a little old-fashioned).
    Jim’s pen = the pen that belongs to Jim
    the ABI’s function = the function of the ABI
    two weeks’ time = the time of two weeks


Things to remember

  1. Don’t use an apostrophe for the plural of an abbreviation: MPs are returning from recess, not MP’s are returning from recess
  2. Don’t use apostrophes for possessive pronouns: Whose is that book? It’s hers. Not Who’s is that book? Its her’s. (His, hers, yours, theirs, its, whose mean belonging to him, her, you, them, it or whom)
  3. If a plural ends in “s” (e.g. consumers), you show that it possesses something by adding only an apostrophe to the end of it (e.g. consumers’ purchases)
  4. If a plural doesn’t end in “s” (e.g. people), you show that it possesses something by adding an apostrophe-s (e.g. people’s princess)
  5. If a word that isn’t a plural ends in “s”, you add an apostrophe-s to it if that is how you would pronounce it: most people would say “my boss’s chair” but “Keats’ poetry”
  6. If an abbreviation ends in “S”, always add an apostrophe-s to show possession: CIS’s chief executive, not CIS’ chief executive


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