Writing case studies workshop (41.14)

How to use Apostrophes

Hello, and welcome to this short video prepared by Academic Skills, and today we’re going to look at how to use an apostrophe because surprisingly it is one of the most common mistakes that students tend to make.

Now, there are two main ways that we would use an apostrophe in our writing. The first of these is contraction – to shorten words – and the second is possession or ownership of a noun, and we’re going to look at the rules that govern how we use these with singular nouns and plural nouns.

Now, the first way that we can use an apostrophe is when we are using contraction. So, basically, this replaces missing letters, the sort of thing we do when we are speaking. So, is not becomes isn’t, does not becomes doesn’t. In an academic writing sense most students probably won’t need to use this because contractions are not a convention of academic writing.

How apostrophes are used in academic writing, however, is when they relate to possession or ownership of something, and there are separate rules according to whether it is a singular or plural subject. So firstly, if we look at the first rule, when we’re dealing with a singular – one boy with one toy – the apostrophe appears before the –s. So – The boy’s toy is blue. It belongs to the boy.

However, if we look at the second example, we suddenly have two boys and more than one toy. In this case the apostrophe goes after the –s to reflect that there is in fact more than one boy. Also, be aware of the verb ‘to be’ in the grammar there. In the first example there – The boy’s toy IS blue – there is only one of them. In the second example – The boys’ toys ARE blue. So, just those small errors tend to crop up a lot in academic writing.

Now, there are some other rules to be aware of when we are using apostrophes to discuss possession or ownership and, simple rules to follow, if the word in singular and ends in an –s, then add an –’s. So a good example of this is – It was my boss’s fault – so I would add the apostrophe and the –s, even though it ends in two –s. That is the rule to adhere to in that case. If the word is plural and ends in –s, then we only add the apostrophe. So a good example is – My neighbours’ houses are all very nice. So, we have more than one neighbour and we just put the apostrophe after the –s, there is no need for another –s.

We hope that has been helpful and that that will clear up any problems you have with using apostrophes.