The problem with apostrophes…


It was brought to my attention the other day that International Apostrophe Day happened to fall on 15th August, and it completely passed me by! Despite missing the momentous day itself, I decided to mark the occasion with a small celebration of this important and useful, yet often misused, punctuation mark.

Anybody who knows me well will appreciate that I am a bit of a pedant when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar, and my pet hate is the misplaced apostrophe. I took the attached picture a few months ago in a well-known Scandinavian furniture superstore, which only goes to prove that no-one is immune to this particular problem.

So what are some of the simple rules to remember when it comes to the apostrophe?

“Apostrophe s” (’s) is used for the contracted form of is and has, and also for the possessive (i.e. belonging to someone) e.g. Catherine’s finally got round to writing another blog post or Catherine’s blog post on apostrophes is really useful. Don’t forget that if a noun is plural, e.g. pizzas, the apostrophe should NEVER go before the ‘s’, and is only needed after the ‘s’ if it’s possessive e.g. the pizzas’ toppings were delicious.

Returning to the cringeworthy photograph above, please note that ‘it’s’ is short for ‘it is’, and not ‘its’, which is the possessive form of ‘it’. If read in full, the first few words of the above statement actually say, everything in it is place…doesn’t make sense, does it? 

I’ve come across a few exceptions to the rule recently and I’m not sure I agree with some of these, the bookshop Waterstones being one example. Apparently they decided to drop the apostrophe before the ‘s’ to make it more accessible online, but since Sainsbury’s still manages to retain its apostrophe on its website (although not in its URL), I’m not sure this argument can be upheld!

I’m always on the lookout for pictures of apostrophe and punctuation fails, so would love to hear from you if you’ve come across any howlers on your travels. Please share with me here or on my Facebook page.