Dealing with the Apostrophe
Let’s face it, even some of the brightest people don’t understand how or why to use an apostrophe. Here are a few rules to help you understand how and when to use an apostrophe, as well as a strategy to avoid using it.
The apostrophe is used to show possession and to punctuate contractions. Those using the apostrophe haphazardly – simply putting one at the end of a plural – show a lack of education as well as a lack of desire to understand when and when not to use an apostrophe.
Let’s take as an example the last name, Schmitt. If we were signing a letter from the Schmitt family, it would be the Schmitts. If the name ends with an S, such as Harris, it would include an -es at the end, Harrises. No apostrophe is needed in either case when you are just referring to the family in general.
In possessive instances, you would need an apostrophe. For instance, if you were writing about my car, it would be Jan Schmitt’s car (singular possessive). If you were writing about the family car, it would be the Schmitts’ car (plural possessive)
When using an apostrophe in possessive cases, it just means that item belongs to that person or persons. As an example, my mother’s purse would be the purse that belongs to my mother, or our doctor’s office would be the office of our doctor.
The apostrophe is never used with possessive pronouns: His, hers, its, ours, yours and theirs. And no apostrophe is used with years, i.e. the seventies or the 1970s. Also, no apostrophe is used when you are using letters, such as “My son received all As on his report card.”
The use of an apostrophe with contractions simply means a letter or letters are missing. I can’t tell you where to go/I cannot tell you where to go. Shannon’s visiting her sister/Shannon is visiting her sister.
When in doubt, another approach would be to simply avoid the apostrophe. The biggest offender or the most glaring misuse of the apostrophe is generally in the possessive, so finding a way to reword a sentence to avoid its use is not a bad idea.
So develop a strategy – understand it, or don’t understand it and find a way not to use it. The choice is yours!