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Am I Writing Too Many Apostrophes?

Updated: Jun 10, 2022

Apostrophe overload is one of the most common punctuation errors, and one that is easy to fix if you know the difference between plural and possessive. Just driving around, we see many expensive trucks, billboards, and store signs lettered with that extra apostrophe thrown in, such as “The best plumber’s in the business,” or, “Our haircut’s are tops!” These should be plural (more than one plumber, more than one haircut), not possessive—ownership is not involved in either of these sentences.

How can you avoid going overboard with apostrophes? Know the difference between plural and possessive! Plural means more than one, which requires adding only an “s” at the end of most words. Example: snake becomes snakes (more than one snake). There is no apostrophe here.

Possessive means ownership, which requires inserting an apostrophe before the “s.” Example: snake’s tongue. Here, you are not indicating more than one snake, but showing the snake owns the tongue.

Plural possessive means more than one AND ownership. In this case, handle the plural first, then the possessive. For many words, the plural already ends in “s,” so just add an apostrophe by itself after the “s.” Example: snakes’ tongues. Here, you have many snakes that own tongues.

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