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Grad. Studies Home

Apostrophe Do's and Don'ts

DO use an apostrophe

>To show possession:  something belongs to someone or something

  • The counselor's skills have improved significantly.

    ( 's = singular and possessive:  the skills of one counselor)

  • Our counselors' skills have improved significantly. 

    ( s' = plural and possessive:  the skills of more than one counselor)


  • This month's events are listed in the program.

    ( 's = singular and possessive:  the events of this one month)

  •  Those agencies' reputations are not very good.

    (s' = plural and possessive:  the reputations of those many agencies)

>To make a contraction:  indicating that a letter or letters have been left out 

NOTE: DO NOT use contractions in formal academic writing; it is always preferable to write the words out.

  • Crying isn't going to help.  ( = Crying is not...)

  • Who's available to help with this report?  (= who is available....)

Do NOT use an apostrophe:

>Just to make a word plural

  • Incorrect: There are three new client's waiting for you

  • Correct: There are three new clients waiting for you.

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Special Problem:  It's vs. Its

It's (with apostrophe) always--and only--means "it is."

  • It's very late. (= It is very late.) Do not use apostrophes like this in formal writing.

Its  (without apostrophe) always--and only--shows possession.

  • The proposal has its faults. (= the faults of the proposal)

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