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Apostrophe Abuse Prevention: It Starts With You

I’m back in Ft. Benning for my cousin’s graduation from basic training, so I thought I’d give you something random for your Friday. 

Oh, the apostrophe. The most misunderstood punctuation mark in history (other than maybe semicolons). The internet, including the personal finance blogosphere, is full of apostrophe abuse. And it makes me sad.

Apostrophes do not make words plural. That’s not why they exist. For example:

  • You eat tacos, not taco’s.
  • You have kids, not kid’s.
  • When I sign Christmas cards, they are from the Whitmers, not the Whitmer’s.
  • If you have more than one penny, you have pennies, not penny’s. (Actual example I saw on a PF blog this week.)

Apostrophes show possession. Like this:

  • The taco’s seasoning tasted a little stale. (Because the seasoning belongs to the taco.)
  • My kid’s shoes are untied. (Because the shoes belong to the kid)
  • Andrea Whitmer’s blog is annoying. (Because the blog belongs to me.)
  • The penny’s shine is starting to wear off. (Because the shine belongs to the penny.)

Apostrophes can also be used to form contractions. The apostrophe is used to replace the letters you take out. Like this:

  • Cannot = can’t
  • Would have = would’ve (NOT would of)
  • Do not = don’t

Its and It’s

Easy rule for deciding whether to use its or it’s – “It’s” means “It is.” Every single time. The end.

If you’re saying it is, you use the apostrophe to replace the missing letter. Wow, it’s hot outside today.

If you’re talking about something that belongs to an object, don’t use the apostrophe. The snake shed its skin.

Your and You’re

You’re = you are. You’re talking about apostrophes too much.

Your = belonging to you. Your shoes are awesome – where did you get them?

Fight Apostrophe Abuse!

Apostrophe is a serious problem that plagues our entire planet, especially the online world. When you’re typing something, take a few seconds to think before you touch that apostrophe key. Do you really need that apostrophe? If you’re not sure, leave it out – chances are, you don’t need it! 

An apostrophe does NOT mean, “Look out – here comes an S!”

People judge you when you type or write words like “potato’s” or “martini’s.” I judge you. So please, do your part to stop apostrophe abuse. We may never be able to eradicate it completely, but you can help by pledging to use apostrophes appropriately or not at all. It really does start with you.


  1. seedebtrun says

    I think I am going to print this off for my eleven your old. 😀

  2. I wish everyone would read this post!

  3. Andrea, I loved your blog before but now… Will you marry me?
    …..*awkward silence*

    Geez, I'm kidding! I'm KIDDING! lol No need to reach for that restraining order. 😉

    Seriously, this is one of my several pet peeves as an editor. I can live with punctuation outside quotes. I can live with the occasional your when it should be you're… as long as it's OCCASIONAL. But some things just drive me nuts, and the accidentally possessive plural is a big one. I once saw a sign "Tattoo's by Joe" and thought… Dude, you are SO not the guy I'd want putting ink on my body. I'd probably end up with a "his and hirs" tattoo. :-p

    The other rant? The horrible misuse of the word "ridiculous". Dude. There is NO LETTER E in ridiculous. None. not a single one. It doesn't even SOUND like "rediculous". So why do people put that e in there???

    Ok sorry /end rant.

    Hope you have a great time at the graduation. 🙂

  4. geistherz says

    Would OF, should OF and could OF are my biggest pet peeves in grammar.
    I always want to say "It is a contraction! Where is the object of that preposition you so insist on putting there?"
    And then I remember I live in the south.

  5. WONDERFUL post!!!!!

  6. debgemologist says

    LOVE IT!!! A great way to write about something super annoying!

  7. Hehehe. I literally have to reread my own posts now to see how many times I have annoyed the crap out of you… 😉 My own personal problem is with "Your welcome" instead of "You're welcome"…I have to catch myself nearly every time…

  8. myjampackedlife says

    I'm probably guilty if doing all these things. Sometimes I don't even capitalize 'I' in a sentence. Sometimes I don't use the apostrophe at all in works like I'll and I'm. I don't know why I do it, I know I should do it, but sometimes I don't. I'll try to do better. I wasn't sure if people actually cared or not but now that I know they do, I'm on it. Thanks for the heads up.

  9. "People judge you when you type or write words like “potato’s” or “martini’s.” I judge you. "

    So do I. I even judge the New York Times style guide, which indicates, "Use apostrophes in the plurals of abbreviations and in plurals formed from letters and figures: M.D.'s; C.P.A.'s; TV's; VCR's; p's and q's; 747's; size 7's. (Many publications omit such apostrophes, but they are needed to make The Times's all-cap headlines intelligible and are therefore used throughout the paper for consistency.)" Yuck.

  10. myjampackedlife says

    K seriously. im trying to write my monday post right now, and Im completely self conscious now! i had to open this in a new window so i can keep referring back to it. AHHHH!!!

    • saraworld02 says

      Sorry to have to say it, but it appears you've learned nothing judging by your comment here. And you refer to something, you don't refer back.

  11. Yes! Yes! Yes!

  12. Andrea,

    I started reading your blog about a year ago, and loved your finance advice and opinions. I can’t tell you how much I loved reading this post today!! I’m affectionately known as the Grammar Queen among my co-workers. Although I’m in the IT field of work, I honestly think I missed my calling as an editor!

    You rock for publishing this blog entry!!!

  13. saraworld02 says

    This post is totally one after my own heart as an English major. Misuse of punctuation and grammar, and bad spelling all make me cringe when I see them online. Facebook is sometimes downright painful when I see horribly mangled posts from people who've gone to college, or at LEAST passed the 4th grade, which is when you're supposed to have all this basic stuff mastered, and you know they should know better! Brilliant post, and I always enjoy your sarcasm.

  14. You go to your parents' house not parent's!!!

  15. If you EVER see any of this on my site please leave a comment and let me know. I don't think normally have this problem but I may slip up every once in a while.

  16. Amen sister!

  17. Too, too funny! Thanks so much for saying all of this – I thought I was the only one offended by this! Now, move on to their, there, they're, your, you're, who, whom, and, oddly enough, subject verb agreement … Oh, and -ly!! And, I have noticed recently, big, published books are full of these silly errors, and all I have been able to think is that the editors must be getting younger? Hey, two more: "irregardless!!" and NO one seems to be able to spell "definitely."

  18. insomniaclabrat says

    This is, by far, the greatest thing I've read all week! An apostrophe does NOT mean, “Look out – here comes an S!” I'm laughing out loud, and Ryan is very confused.

    I also hate "could of" and the misuse of "seen", as in "I seen something today".

    It blows my mind that people I graduated from high school with make these types of errors consistently. We had to pass "mastery" tests in English class every year, covering topics like apostrophes, semi-colons, affect/effect, etc. How did these people manage to pass those tests? I think blind luck…I know I make mistakes once in a while, but some people have a mistake in every single Facebook post or whatever.

  19. Good grammer lesson. I love to have a rule that I can repeat in my head when I proof read what I write. i before e, except after c is one of my favorites.

  20. Hi, my name is Tammy and I am an apostrophe abuser. *waves*

  21. Awesome post. You should do one on the semicolon so I can understand it a bit more and also the comma abuse or non abuse.

  22. Catachresist says

    It's an old, old problem — example here:

  23. OMG! "look, here comes an S!" Perfection.

  24. Haha, I'm slowly learning! Possesion confused me for the longest time! I wasn't guilty of using apostrophes as plurals so much as I used to be guilty of just not using apostrophes because I get scared as to where they go. But I now know (my girlfriend is a freak about it so I had to learn)

  25. OMG! This is such a pet peeve of mine! I also hate when people don't use homonyms correctly… Thank you for letting me know I'm not the only grammar geek out there!!!

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