Apostrophes

Correctly using apostrophes


Apostrophes are sometimes used to replace missing letters in contractions such as don't (do not), couldn't (could not), or that's (that is).

In formal college writing, it is often best to avoid contractions (which are considered informal) and simply write out the words.

INFORMAL: The student shouldn't have parked in the no-parking zone just because he didn't want to be late for class.

FORMAL: The student should not have parked in the no-parking zone just because he did not want to be late for class.

NOTE: Using contractions when writing dialogue IS an appropriate use of contractions in order to make the dialogue realistic.

Apostrophes are used to show possession.

Add an apostrophe and an "s" to a noun to show the noun owns something.

Examples:
Because John owns the book, we call it John's book.
If George's brother has a book, we call it his brother's book.

If the noun already ends in "s," just add an apostrophe to show that the noun owns something.

Examples:
Charles Dickens' books are often taught in college.
The girls' shoes were lined up at the door.