Punctuation is a crucial component of clear and effective writing. The apostrophe is one punctuation mark that can be confusing and daunting to use correctly. Used correctly, an apostrophe can help to make writing reader friendly and convey meaning effectively. The following are the ways in which apostrophes can be used correctly and thereby enhance effective writing.
First, the apostrophe is commonly used for the possessive form of a singular noun, as in: e.g. “the gun of a policeman”, instead write: ” the policeman’s gun”. If the apostrophe has to be used for the plural form of a noun ending with an “s”, this can be confusing for some writers. The following is an example how an apostrophe is used for a plural noun ending in ‘s’ as with ” reader- readers’ “. “The readers’ opinion is important”. Note that the apostrophe comes at the end of the word readers ending with ‘s’ instead of before the ‘s’.
Possessive forms of personal pronouns do not require the apostrophe. An exception is the pronoun ‘one’. The possessive form of ‘one’ is ‘one’s’. The possessive forms of the other pronouns are: his, hers, yours, theirs, ours, mine and whose.
Its and it’s are different and are a source of confusion for many writers. The former is short for ‘it is’: e.g, “it is, or its my duty to wash the car,” and the latter is a possessive; e.g: it’s colour was white’, as when replying to a question about what colour a car was.
There is also the elliptical apostrophe. Instead of writing: “Peter’s and Jim’s car’, you would write, Peter and Jim’s car. The apostrophe comes before the ‘s’ after the second proper noun.
The apostrophe is optional but preferred by most writers in expressions such as a ‘year’s time, ‘a day’s time, and two week’s time.
Do not try to form other contractions with proper nouns, for it is unacceptable.E.g, John’s going with us.’ Rather write; ‘John is going with us.’Contractions that are permissible are: I’ve (I have), they’re (they are), he’s (he is) haven’t (have not). I’d (I would), isn’t (is not).
An apostrophe can also be used to show the omission of numbers such as in: “the winter of ’87.” Lastly, the apostrophe can be used to form plurals of single letters or numbers when they appear in the body of a text. E.g. “He only wrote the b’s and the d’s”. This is to prevent confusion for the reader.