Apostrophe’s for Everyone!

Posted by on Nov 5, 2013 in Business Writing | 0 comments

Sometime during the summer of 1998, a shipping crate from Asia arrived in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Stowing away in that crate were an unknown number of brown marmorated stink bugs, an insect species non-native to the United States. They hopped out of the crate, had a bug orgy, and went off exploring. If you haven’t seen one, (first off, you’re obviously not a resident of Pennsylvania or Maryland) they kind of resemble what you’d get if you crossed a beetle, a dinosaur, your nightmares, and a very tiny coffee table. If you squish them they secrete an odor that smells like a middle school locker room, so the only way to safely get rid of them is to trap them and flush them down the toilet. They’re magical creatures that show up right in the middle of your desk without you actually noticing them walking or flying to the point they presently occupy. As soon as you get rid of one, you’ll sit back down only to notice another one across the room that wasn’t there when you trapped his stinky little cousin.

Why do I mention the stink bugs in a blog on business writing? Because in much the same way, non-native, invasive apostrophes have a habit of showing up in words they have no business in. How many times have you seen something similar to this?

Come on down to The Bargain Shack! We’ve got ton’s of new merchandise!

What that actually says is “Come on down to The Bargain Shack. We’ve got of new merchandise belonging to 2,000 pounds of something!”

How a unit of measurement can own or possess merchandise, I have no idea.

What’s that, milliliter? You have an extensive antiques collection? Well then, I stand corrected.

The amount of times I’ve seen people write things like…

“You won’t believe the amount of turtle’s I saw today on the beach!”
“Get down here immediately, these pancake’s are amazing!”
“Jesus Christ, the Steeler’s really suck this year.”

While these gaffes might be casually snickered at by your friends on Facebook, imagine these scenarios…

“Our financial planner’s are the best in the business!”
“If your computer’s are acting up, let us be the one’s to help.”

This isn’t good because it makes your business look unprofessional and punctuation infested. So listen closely apostrophe abusers because this next part is critical.


The good news here is that there’s an incredibly easy way to tell whether the word needs an apostrophe or not. Ask yourself these three questions.

1) Is the “s” present simply because there are multiple people or objects involved?
2) Is the “s” present because someone or something is taking ownership of something?
3) Is the “s” present because there are multiple people or objects involved AND they’re taking ownership of something?

If you answered yes to option number one, then congratulations, no apostrophe needed! If you answered yes to option number two then go ahead, throw caution to the wind and slam an apostrophe in there! If you answered yes to option number three, then uh-oh, earthquake coming.

When dealing with option number three, the apostrophe is most likely going to go after the word all together. (Most of the time) It shows up in places like….

“The red kickball is the kids’ favorite.”

This implies multiple children take ownership of the red kickball as their favorite kickball. Because let’s face it, the green kickball sucks and everyone knows it.

However, if it was written like this…

“The red kickball is the kid’s favorite.”

…it would imply that the red kickball is the favorite of one singular child and the rest of the kids were raised by idiots because they all preferred the crappy half-deflated green kickball instead. Morons.

And that’s it. That’s how you defeat the apostrophe invasion. No traps, no sprays, none of your neighbor’s super secret potions in a bowl on the window sill making your kitchen smell like gasoline. It’s a mistake that’s much, much easier to get rid of than the damn stink bu…
And there’s one on the smoke alarm. Hope you like swimming, buddy.

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