Writing Tip #106: Apostrophe, a big job for a little character
The apostrophe is an often misunderstood character. It has several uses, one of which, it represents belonging to someone or something. It is followed by the letter s. This rule does not apply if the item or name ends with the letter s. Here are some examples:
‘This is the dog’s ball.’ The ball belongs to the dog.
‘My neighbour’s house is for sale.’ The house belongs to the neighbour.
‘Mr. Weathers’ secretary is on her lunch break.’ Notice that there is no s following the apostrophe on Weathers.
Most commonly, the apostrophe replaces a letter or letters to contract two words into one. Here are some examples:
there is = there’s - The apostrophe replaces the letter i.
do not = don’t - The apostrophe replaces the letter o.
you are = you’re - The apostrophe replaces the letter a. This is often misspelled with your.
you have = you’ve - The apostrophe replaces the letters ha.
I am = I’m - The apostrophe replaces the letter a.
I will = I’ll - The apostrophe replaces the letters wi.
I would = I’d - The apostrophe replaces the letters woul from the word would.
The words it’s and its are sometimes confusing. One is a contraction of two words and the other represents belonging. The apostrophe can’t be used for both situation, so this is where there is an exception to the rule.
it’s means it is. ‘It’s time for you to turn out the lights.’
its represent belonging. ‘The cat has a long tail. Its tail is very long.’ The apostrophe is dropped here.
A mistake a lot of writers make when talking about a decade or century is the placement of the apostrophe.
when you talk about a decade, for example 1990-1999, it is referred to as the ‘90s. The apostrophe replaces the numbers 19. The letter s represents the multiple years between 1990 and 1999. If you were to write 90’s, as most people do, this would mean 90 owns something. 90 is a number. It can’t own anything.
similarly, when talking about a century, you would say the 18th century or the 1800s (the 18 hundreds). The letter s represents the one hundred years. Again, no apostrophe.