Stop Putting Apostrophes In The Wrong Place

Photo: Alan Levine

For some of us, grade-school grammar lessons haven't stuck. I managed fairly well with my trusty Elements of Style until pretty recently, but the ongoing assault on grammar that is the Internet occasionally shakes my confidence.

(Every time I want to type rein, rain, or reign, for example, I need to close my eyes and meditate for a moment.)

If you're one of those people for whom grammar and punctuation don't come easily (or aren't a native English speaker), this handy flowchart from will come in handy: It will help you navigate all the questions that determine whether you need an apostrophe or not, from the big (Are you making something possessive?) to the small (Is it a single-letter word?).

Now, confession: I love reading grammar guides not only because I'm a total geek, but because I often either learn something I don't know or the explanation articulates a concept I understand intuitively but never really thought about: For example, one-letter words in sentences like "There are two t's in kittens" take an apostrophe.

One quibble: In the "Are you making a contraction?" section, the question reads "Are you making words shorter by replacing some of its letters with an apostrophe?" This is sloppy - it should read "Are you making words shorter by replacing some of their letters with an apostrophe?" Perhaps the next GrammarCheck flowchart should be on the sticky grammar question of agreement.



    No wonder non-native English speakers have trouble learning it.

      The size of this 'handy chart' says it all, really. I still look it up a lot of the time just because it doesn't look or read quite right.

    If I use the spelling tomatoe, is tomato's a valid contraction of the plural?

    Not sure why I would take English lessons from people who can’t spell words like colour or honour.

    Correct spelling is for loosers... (yes, that is intended...)

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now