24 Punctuation: Apostrophes

After completing this chapter, you will be able to

  • use apostrophes correctly to make contractions and possessives


Apostrophes are used for two reasons:

  1. to create a contraction (it is = it’s)
  2. to create a possessive (owned by Deborah = Deborah’s)


 A contraction is a word that is formed by combining two words. In a contraction, an apostrophe indicates where one or more letters have been left out when the two words are combined. Contractions are commonly used in informal writing but not in formal writing.

Common Contractions

Apostrophes can also be used to shorten words (of the clock = o’clock), to shorten numbers (1993 = ’93), or dialect (runnin’).


Apostrophes are used with a noun or indefinite pronoun to show who or what belongs to something or someone.


To determine where the apostrophe goes in a word that shows possession, you must first determine if the noun or indefinite pronoun is singular or plural.

Determining whether or not to place an apostrophe before or after an s to show possession in a sentence is a three-step process:


Apostrophes to Show Joint or Separate Ownership

 Apostrophes can be used to show joint ownership or individual ownership.


Apostrophes in Hyphenated Compound Words

To show possession when using hyphenated compound words, add an apostrophe and an s at the end of the last hyphenated word regardless of whether or not the nouns are singular or plural.


Watch these videos to review what you’ve learned about apostrophes[1] [2].


Additional Resources

Complete the LinkedIn Learning course called Advanced Grammar with Judy Steiner-Williams. There’s a great section on punctuation.

  1. Shannon, D. (2021, March 28). Apostrophes 1 [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/0FuzpY1sN1w.
  2. Shannon, D. (2021, March 28). Apostrophe2 [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/Xbu9ZWfgwYw.


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