Correct use of apostrophes

Many writers (even good ones) mis-use the apostrophe.  But you will find that editors appreciate articles with correctly used apostrophes.  A few rules:

Rule 1

Use an apostrophe to show possession (owning). Put an apostrophe in front of the s to show possession by one person.  For instance: the man’s dog (one man owns one dog)  Or, the man’s dogs (one man owns more than one dog).


Rule 2

Use an apostrophe to show ownership by more than one person (or thing or other noun).  But first make the noun plural.  Put an apostrophe after the s to show ownership by more than one person.

For instance, all these are correct:

one dog’s bone two dogs’ bones
one digger’s spade two diggers’ spades
one cat’s hat two cats’ hats


Rule 3

Use an apostrophe in contracted (shortened) words. An apostrophe is put in the spot where the letter or letters would be.  For instance: ma’m (madam), don’t (do not), we’ll (we will).


Rule 4

To show singular possession with proper nouns ending in s or an s sound, today you must write the word and add apostrophe-s.  Singular possession: Mr Jones’s office, John Laws’s car.  Plural possession: the Joneses’ house, the Lawses’ cars.


Rule 5

Use an apostrophe and s after the second name only if two people possess the same item.  For instance: Bill and Mary’s car is now repaired.  Bill’s and Mary’s cars are now repaired (separate ownership).


Rule 6

Don’t use the apostrophe with the possessive pronouns such as his, hers, theirs, ours, yours. They already show possession, so do not need the apostrophe.


Rule 7

Using an apostrophe to show plurals of numbers, letters, and figures (two KFC’s, 1700’s) is today not used.  Correct writing: She bought two CDs, he did best in the 1980s.  Most mainstream Australian editors demand it without the apostrophe.