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When to use Apostrophes

Apostrophes. You use them to denote ownership and form contractions. But the rules for their usage aren't as clear as you might think. Let's look at how to use them.

I think everybody knows you use apostrophes to form contractions. You take two words and mash them together with an apostrophe as the thread that connects them. Examples: "Can't," "Won't," "Isn't," "You're," etc., etc. But you have to be careful with contractions such as "Let's" and "It's" because those are different words depending on whether they're contractions. "Let's" is short for "Let us" and should not be mistaken for "Lets." The latter means to be allowed to do/be something. Example: "I just bought Microsoft Excel. It lets me easily track things in tables."*

Now, let's look at "It's." It means "It is" and the usage of "Its" is actually the opposite of what you might expect. Often you use an apostrophe to form a possessive, but not in the case of "Its." For this, you leave it off. Example: "I found its hiding place."

Speaking of possession, this seems like a good segue way to get into them. Normally, you use an apostrophe after a noun to show ownership. Examples: "Scott's business," "Mary's lunch hour," etc. But what if the noun ends in an "s"? Well, this is where it gets complicated. Some people simply add the apostrophe after the "s." Others add an extra "s" after said apostrophe to make terms such as "The nuns's convent." Myself, I just add an apostrophe after the "s" and call it a day.

But wait. What about possessive plurals of proper names that end in "s"? Well, for that, you would add "es" before the apostrophe. Say you have a family whose last name is Williams. To denote something that belongs to all of them, you would say "The Williamses' [whatever they own]."

Now, if you have two people that both own something, only the second person's name gets an apostrophe. Example: "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." Only "Ted" gets an apostrophe.

There are even more rules for apostrophes. Check out to see them for yourself.

*I’m not pimping for Microsoft, I swear.