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Happy National Grammar Day!


Today is National Grammar Day! Whoo hoo!! As Grammar Girl says, March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same. I’m definitely in that court!

Grammar is part of my everyday life, not only because I’m an editor/writer but also because I love the topic and read books on the subject. I think all the time about how words affect others, how messages could be improved, and how to make the reader experience a good one.

Some of the grammar books I’ve recently read have such great explanations and clear examples.* Let’s no longer be unclear about apostrophes indicating possession. Two possessive apostrophe forms are apostrophe “s” (’s) and “s” apostrophe (s’). When do you use each? Is it Charles’ toy? Is 1970’s correct?

apostrophe “s” (’s) means possessive only of whatever it is attached to. Just add ’s to the end:

  • a cat’s scratch post

  • the restaurant’s parking lot

  • the woman’s scarf

  • Margie’s sewing machine

  • farmer’s market (belongs to only one farmer)

“s” apostrophe (s’) means both plural and possessive:

  • If word does not end with an “s”, simply add s’ to the end

  • the cats’ scratch post (belongs to more than one cat)

  • farmers’ market (belongs to more than one farmer)

  • If word already ends in “s”, you have two choices: add s’ or add only the apostrophe. Both are correct. The reason for omitting the extra “s” is to avoid the same syllable repeating, so you don’t need to have that hissing sound of several “s” in a row, also called a sibilant sound. If it feels natural for you to pronounce the second “s”, then it’s OK to include it.

  • Charles’ toy / Charles’s toy

  • Mrs. Williams’ delicious muffins / Mrs. Williams’s delicious muffins

  • Harris’ car / Harris’s car

No apostrophe

  • farmers market = no apostrophe means the market is for all farmers and it doesn’t belong to anyone. There’s no possessiveness.

  • 1970s, the ’80s the judges ranked 10s = There’s no possessiveness, and apostrophe “s” should be avoided in plurals of dates and numbers.

There's so much more to be said about apostrophes, but that's for another day. Signing off with the National Grammar Day theme song.

Say it with Steele, x C

*Grammar books I recommend/love:

  1. McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage, 2nd edition, by Mark Lester and Larry Beason

  2. Grammatically Correct, by Anne Stilman

  3. Perfect English Grammar by Grant Barrett, and its companion, The Perfect English Grammar Workbook by Lisa McLendon

  4. The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, by Jane Straus