You know, if you’re a writer, it doesn’t hurt to review grammar and punctuation rules once in a while, especially these days. So much of our communication is online and folk have become, for the most part, informal in their writing style because they are writing the way they speak.
Even more important than grammar, in my opinion, is proper punctuation. Writers can get away with using creative licence in the name of artistic style, defying grammar rules; however, incorrect use of the apostrophe will make a writer appear sloppy, and less credible. And not only that, in some cases it can misconstrue the meaning of the sentence.
Using apostrophe s forms the possessive — but not always. While reviewing my notes, I recalled my frustration early on, about how to understand the use of the apostrophe; especially how to use the apostrophe when forming the plural possessive.
How do you know when to put the apostrophe before or after the s?
How to form the plural possessive
It’s easy, and it all depends on whether or not you need to add the letter s to form the plural of the noun.
Take the word child, for example. When writing the singular possessive form, if you were writing about the relationship of one child to their toy, you would be writing about the child’s toy, adding an apostrophe s.
The word children is known as an irregular plural form, because it is derived from the word child. Since the plural form of child is children, with no s, if you were writing about the relationship of a group of children and their toys, you would be writing about the children’s toys. You would add an apostrophe s, because the word children is already plural.
Don’t be tempted to write this with the apostrophe after the s: childrens’ or worse — childrens’s.
The following example demonstrates a singular and plural possessive used in the same sentence. Here, the plural form of the noun does not require an s:
The child’s toy was donated to a local children’s day care centre.
If the plural form of the word already has the letter s at the end — such as babies — form the plural possessive by inserting the apostrophe after the s.
This example demonstrates a singular and plural possessive used in the same sentence where the plural form of the noun does require an s:
The baby’s name was chosen from a list of popular babies’ names.
Common singular and plural possessive forms
Here are some examples of commonly used words that cause confusion for writers when using the apostrophe.
Singular and Plural Possessives
|Singular||Singular Possessive||Plural||Plural Possessive|
Follow this simple guideline when forming the singular and plural possessive:
1. If you have to add an s to form the possessive, whether singular or plural, insert the apostrophe before the s.
2. If the plural form of the word already has an s at the end, insert the apostrophe after the s.
It’s that simple!
If you would rather let me take care of these details for you, my editorial and proofreading services are for hire.
What possessive plural confuses you?
Photo Credit: Polandeze