Writing tips – Putting the Apostrophe in its Place

All bloggers know just how much work goes into producing each and every post and many of us spend a great deal of time, effort and (often) money on our photographic efforts, but creating well written and engaging content is every bit as important to the end result.  Not all of us are born great writers or are even that interested in showcasing our writing skills, preferring to focus on the reason we began our blogging journey – the food, but if we want to engage our readers we need to make sure we can at least string a few sentences together sensibly.  This can be done in various ways.  We don’t all need to head off to do a tertiary English degree to improve our writing, but an understanding of some basic rules of grammar and punctuation will add a professionalism and polish to our writing.

Grammar (which, if the writing skills of my own children are anything to go by, seems to have fallen through the educational net) is the study of the structure of any language and the rules around the use of words in the construction of sentences.  Punctuation marks, of course, are symbols used to organise language and inform our inflection of words or phrases when reading or speaking.  Apostrophes seem to be the most vexed and misused of these and their incorrect placement can make a world of difference to the meaning of anything we write.  I’m as guilty as anyone else of a hurried post and misplaced apostrophes, but the difference this might make to a sentence can be alarming.

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Here are some basic rules for use of the apostrophe.

Rule Number 1 – ALWAYS use the apostrophe with contractions.  It’s is short for it is or it has, don’t is short for do not, you’re is short for you are – and so on.

Rule Number 2 – Never use the apostrophe with possessive pronouns.  Its is a possessive pronoun and used similarly to his (for masculine things) and her (for feminine things).  It is gender neutral and never has an apostrophe.

Rule Number 3 – Use the apostrophe to show possession.  If one person owns something the apostrophe comes before the ‘s’.  For example – girl’s coffee was too hot, the boy’s hat blew away.  If more than one person owns the article the apostrophe is placed after the ‘s’.  For example – the girls’ coffee was too hot, the boys’ hats blew away.

Rule Number 4 – Never use the apostrophe for the plural of a noun.  For example, there is no place for an apostrophe in “The apples were beautifully ripe” or “it takes quite a few eggs to make a pavlova”.

These are all pretty straightforward rules – not difficult to understand and easy to remember, but if you are ever in any doubt simply look it up.  We all have Google at our fingertips these days, so have no excuses!




About Amanda McInerney

Amanda is the author of Lambs Ears & Honey and is one of the co-founders of Food Bloggers Australia. You can learn more about Amanda here and connect with her on Twitter, Google + and Pinterest.


  1. This is a great, short and needed article. I actually never use the apostrophe after the s but I will now. Thanks.

  2. I know a few people who could use a copy of that book ;). Whilst I may struggle with getting my thoughts into each post I really do try to have the correct grammar. Of course I am also the person who does not abbreviate any text or email I send, so I guess this isn’t surprising. Thanks for the quick and concise use of the apostrophe, and I plan on referring back to it whenever I am unsure.

  3. It does hurt my eyes to see things like all the egg’s need to be at room temperature. Most people really care and only occasionally make an oops. I do know a blogger who said, “This is how I think and if people don’t like it, they can go somewhere else.” Then she wanted to know why her traffic was going down.

    Terrific post and one we all need to heed.

  4. WordPress.com have a grammar/spell checker option that one can run over one’s posts before hitting publish which can be useful. It doesn’t take very long and makes helpful suggestions. It uses an American dictionary so if you spell ‘colour’ the UK way then it will mark it as wrong and suggest ‘color’, so one has to watch out for that!

    I don’t know if the other blogging platforms have such a thing.

    There is one other use of the apostrophe which you might want to mention which is this one where it is used after a plural possessive i.e.

    After receiving the bloggers’ comments she went and treated herself to a large bar of chocolate.

    The apostrophe after the s shows you are talking about plural bloggers not just one which would be…

    After receiving the blogger’s comments she went and treated herself to a stiff drink.

    But probably most people just avoid writing sentences where this might be necessary.

  5. I think I missed that in your post! Just re read, do take it out, apologies!

  6. What really bugs me is people writing 1970’s and 1980’s with the apostrophe. There is no belonging or no contraction. As far as I am aware that is wrong yet it is so common. It is ok to have an s directly after a number. I checked with the Apostrophe Protection Society and they back me up on this – http://www.apostrophe.org.uk/page4.html

  7. I love the idea of an Apostrophe Protection Society – will look them up. Btw, I’m pretty sure that there’s an apostrophe in a phrase such as “we love the food of the ’60s and ’70s” to show that some numerals are missing? Correct me if I’m wrong. cheers

  8. My pet apostrophe peeve is currently your vs you’re. So many people get that wrong and it drives me completely bonkers!

  9. And all this time I thought I was the only person in the world hating misplaced apostrophes! Another is to, too and two.
    Not many can spell “definitely”. It is usually “definitely”. Don’t worry people. I know I am pedantic.

  10. Jayne Manwarring says:

    I am delighted to read your comments as at times I felt I was alone in my grumpiness and irritation at misspelling and punctuation problems.


  1. […] Do apostrophes confuse you? Amanda's post will give you basics to put it in it's right place. http://t.co/dbYqCKRmFL #writingtips  […]

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