Guilty of adding too many apostrophes?  This is one of the most common punctuation errors, and one that is easy to fix if you know the difference between plural vs. possessive.

Plural vs. possessive nouns

Just driving around, I 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 apostrophe crazy? Remember these simple pointers:

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, plus 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.

After reading this post, you will now start seeing those extra apostrophes everywhere, which, let me warn you, becomes really annoying. Just remember to keep them out of your own writing!

Per our readers’ responses to this blog, we look forward to posting future blogs on apostrophes. This blog serves only as an introduction to a topic with many rules, and of course, exceptions to those rules.

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