Apostrophe Usage – They’re everywhere!

This morning I saw a picture of a sign; nearly every word was followed by “’s”.  Bad, bad, bad!  Just because something is plural it doesn’t mean it needs an apostrophe unless it’s possessive – and even then, it doesn’t always qualify for an extra “s”.

For example:

Good Eat’s!

Sport’s Nut’s!

We Repair Car’s While You Wait!

Okay, you get the idea, right?  “Eat’s” doesn’t own anything, and neither do “nut’s” or “car’s” or “sport’s”.  Now, if the signs said:

“Johnny Eat’s Restaurant”, that would mean that a guy named Johnny Eat owns a restaurant.  Which would be weird, yes.  Or, if you said:

“Sports Nut’s Bar and Grill”, that would mean that the bar and grill is owned by a sports nut – if, of course, it was several sports nuts, you’d have to place the apostrophe after the “s”, not before it. 

There’s just no good example to fix that last one.  Cars are repaired, period.

Here’s another reason not to use an apostrophe: when naming decades.  I see this one a lot.  “1960’s”, “70’s”, and so forth.  The only time to use an apostrophe with these types of “words” is to show ownership, such as “The 1980s’ styles included big hair, feathered bangs, and powder blue eyeshadow.”  If you are referring simply to a decade, skip the apostrophe and say “1990s”.

And one more common faux pas regarding an unneeded apostrophe: “do’s and don’ts”.  Now, it seems correct because, after all, the word “don’t” gets to have an apostrophe, right?  And saying “dos” just looks funny…or Spanish.  But no, no, no!  The correct phrase is “dos and don’ts”. 

Now, where to put that pesky apostrophe on a word that already has an “s” on the end?  Of course, when you’re showing it to be possessive that is!  For most words you can simply tack the apostrophe on the end; for a few of them, you have to add an “s”.  Here are some examples:

“Johnny Eats’ Restaurant” – in this case, Johnny’s last name is Eats, not Eat.  And of course, if there were no apostrophe at all we’d be saying that Johnny ate a restaurant, right?

“Zebras’ stripes” – this refers to the stripes of several zebras, or at least more than one zebra; if referring to one zebra, the apostrophe would go before the “s”.

Apostrophes can trip up writers quite a bit, but if you take time to brush up on the “rules” and remember your possessives, you can clean up your work in no time at all.

5 comments on “Apostrophe Usage – They’re everywhere!

  1. MJ Logan says:

    I plead guilty to using an apostrophe with decades until recently. One day I was putting it in and thought, ya know dummy, that’s just wrong. And I stopped.

    Anyway, good post.



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  3. Jessica says:

    OMG, this drives me CRAZY!!! I had a teacher in high school who wouldn’t buy a product if they had incorrect grammar or punctuation in their advertising. I asked him, “Does that leave anything for you to buy?” because it’s RAMPANT!!


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