Apostrophes Revisited by Angela Caldin
Emily Smart, Copywriter Extraordinaire
I must start by saying that, when it comes to copywriting, my fellow blogger, Emily, is a brilliant exponent of the craft. She can turn out an excellent piece of writing at the drop of a hat in whatever style, tone or genre that you wish. She can be funny, serious, concise, detailed, evocative or plain down to earth – whatever best suits the task in hand. If you want a copywriter who can write accurately to a brief and deliver the goods to a deadline, then Emily’s your woman.
I have just one gripe with Emily and it’s this: she gets in a bit of a muddle with her apostrophes. She puts them in where they are not needed, for example:
Kiwi’s are devoted to the traditional villa style of house.
And she leaves them out where they really are needed, for example:
A New Zealanders home is usually made of wood and often resembles a scout hut.
In the first example, Kiwis does not need an apostrophe, because we are talking about the plural of one Kiwi. But the second example does need an apostrophe because we are talking about the home which belongs to a New Zealander, a New Zealander’s home. So the guideline goes like this:
APOSTROPHES ARE USED TO INDICATE OWNERSHIP OR POSSESSION
• The company’s logo
• The client’s instructions
• The customer’s orders
• The bank’s opening hours
If, in the above examples, the nouns are plural, that is there are two or more companies, clients, customers and banks – then the apostrophe moves to after the s, as in:
• The companies’ logos
• The clients’ instructions
• The customers’ orders
• The banks’ opening hours
The only exceptions to this rule are some words which have irregular plurals (that is where the plural does not end in s, but in en or ice), where the apostrophe comes before an added s:
• The children’s books
• The men’s trousers
• The women’s handbags
• The mice’s tails
APOSTROPHES ARE NEVER EVER USED TO INDICATE PLURALS
So the following are all wrong:
• Carrot’s and leek’s for sale X
• MP’s are paid too much X
• Menu’s available inside X
• Free consultation’s given X
• New client’s always welcome X
• 1000’s of items were sold X
I know I’m fighting a losing battle as far as apostrophes go because few people seem to understand the rules, let alone care about them. Some question whether it matters at all and feel that we could manage quite well without them. I agree that creative and inventive writing can transcend punctuation, but if you want your excellent piece to be polished, make sure you use your spell check or employ a good proofreader to make it shine.