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Apostrophes

You see them in ads, on signs, in professional biographies, on websites – you name it.

Sometimes they’re in the wrong spot. More often, they shouldn’t even be used. In fact, an apostrophe has just two uses:

1. To indicate missing letters or numbers in a contraction:

Long version

Contraction

We are

We’re
You are

You’re

Is not

Isn’t

It is

It’s

1980s

’80s

2. To show ownership or possession when used with an “s”:

  • The CEO’s whitepaper is due tomorrow.
  • The bestselling book’s publisher is assisting with my employees’ publications.

Tip: If more than one thing or person has possession, the apostrophe usually goes after the ‘s’ – see employees’ – above.

Exception: As always, there are a couple of exceptions – where an apostrophe isn’t needed to show possession. Think: its and whose.

Apostrophes and numbers: Rarely should they mix! In this example, you might be tempted to add an apostrophe between the number and the ‘s’. Don’t!

  • In the 1990s, when I was in my 20s, I loved music and fashion of the ’80s.

The only time it’s required is when the number is shortened from 1980s to ‘80s.

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