Tips on how to use apostrophes correctly in your writing

Copywriting Writing Tips

Today I’m wearing an Adidas t-shirt with the words “”How’s Second Taste” on the front.adidas t-shirt hows second taste for blog 26 feb 2015

Adidas’s intention for the wearer of said beautiful pink t-shirt and passers-by admiring it is to read “How’s” as “How Does”.

Only problem is that “How’s” is not an accepted abbreviation for “How Does” but is correct for “How is”. However, “How Is Second Taste” is grammatically incorrect.

And “How Does Second Taste” isn’t quite as snappy as “How’s Second Taste”…

Clearly Adidas were using a very casual writing style when they were working out the words to go on these cool t-shirts. But in more formal writing, using “How’s” as a contraction for “How Does” is a no-no, well in my book anyway.

The above is one (not so good…) example of when an apostrophe is used to show the omission of a letter. I’ve listed below more examples of how to use apostrophes in your writing which is a useful guide to follow in all sorts of writing styles, but more importantly in formal writing like business documents, reports and letters.

An apostrophe is also used to show when singular common nouns are possessive where the apostrophe separates the base word from the ending; this is the apostrophe’s most straightforward use and is known as the apostrophe s.

The apostrophe is used to mark plural possession as indicated by s apostrophe.

Other issues with the apostrophe are its use with proper names, with joint ownership, in compound titles and generic phrases and in expressions of time.

Possession and common nouns The apostrophe is inserted before the possessive s of singular common nouns:-

  • tomorrow’s weather
  • the company’s policy

Nouns whose singular ends in s are treated the same way:-Apostrophe image small for blog 26 Feb 2015

  • the mistress’s lover
  • the platypus’s webbed feet

Plural nouns ending in s take the s apostrophe:-

  • the governments’ budget
  • students’ answers

In contrast, plural nouns that do not end in s take the apostrophe s:-

  • the children’s bedtime
  • the calve’s feeding routine

Possessive pronouns do not use the apostrophe s at all. Their standard forms are:-

my, your, his, her, its, our, their


mine, yours, his, hers, its, our, theirsApostrophe image small for blog 26 Feb 2015

Proper names

Personal names ending in any letter other than s take an apostrophe s:-

  • Jane’s brother
  • Murphy’s food
  • Mrs Black’s house


The names of places, streets and roads in Australia do not take apostrophes, even when they represent possessive constructions:-

  • Kings Cross, Mrs Macquaries Point, St Georges Terrace, Frenchs Forest

This practice is also common in the US but in the UK, a name can appear with or without an apostrophe in different parts of the country.

Possessive phrases

A possessive phrase takes the apostrophe on the last word of the phrase:-

  • someone else’s bike
  • the publisher’s responsibility

Joint ownership or association is shown by placing the apostrophe s on the second of the two “owners”:-

  • her brother and sister’s apartment

Where ownership is not joint, each name takes an apostrophe:-

  • her brother’s and sister’s voices

Nonpossessive and generic phrases

In phrases such as visitors book, drivers licence and travellers cheques, the plural noun is descriptive rather than possessive. Because it describes an association with the following word rather than any direct ownership, no apostrophe is necessary.

Expressions of time

In the past, an apostrophe was used in expressions of time involving a plural reference such as, eight weeks’ time, two months’ pay, but nowadays, the apostrophe is often left out. However, when the time reference is in the singular, the apostrophe should be used to help mark the noun as singular:-

  • the year’s cycle
  • a day’s trip

Plural forms

Apostrophes should not be used before the s of a plural word, a common mistake as demonstrated in the following examples:-

  • fresh orange’s and lemon’s
  • carol’s by candlelight

If you are still unsure about how to use apostrophes correctly in your writing, send a message via the Contact page and I’ll answer your question.

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