The Communications Factors: Mastering the Apostrophe


When using The Communications Factors to brand yourself, there must be a basic understanding of grammatical rules, and especially of the apostrophe. The most basic use of the apostrophe is to form a contraction. Take for example the word cannot. Using the apostrophe it forms the word can’t. Simple enough.

Besides taking the place of omitted letters, the apostrophe is also used to show possession. The back of Mark becomes Mark’s back. Again, simple enough. But what about words like Thomas, Moses, or Jesus? Is it Thomas’s back, Moses’s Laws, or Jesus’s name? Traditional thoughts taught that if you were speaking of a proper name ending in -s with more than two syllables, you were to add only the apostrophe to show possession. Therefore, if Frances had a friend, it should be written Frances’ friend. However, the new philosophy is that it is up to the individual person. This means if Thomas prefers to have people call them Thomas’s English Muffins, then that’s what it should be.

The 2007 AP Stylebook states that with singular proper names ending in S, only an apostrophe is appropriate: Achilles’ heel, Agnes’ book, Ceres’ rites, Dickens’ Novels, etc…

So when writing about the works of Charles Dickens, make sure you make it Dickens’ works and not Dickens’s. If someone corrects you, affect your snobbiest accent and say, “Actually, the AP Stylebook argues otherwise, my friend.” Check out this link to fully appreciate the meanings of punctuation marks!

An Exception:

The most troublesome use of the apostrophe is regarding the word IT. To show possession, write its without the apostrophe: its bowl, its seat, its bed, etc. The addition of an apostrophe to the word its,completely changes the word and thereby shows that you have not yet mastered the rules of grammar. Remember that the apostrophe allows for the omission of letters? When it is followed by an apostrophe s, it can be read it is! So if you’re writing about the dog’s bowl, you should write its bowl, and not it’s bowl.

Making this heinous error could cost you the respect of your peers or worse, of business colleagues.

How ’bout it?

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