Here at Tell-It-To-The-World Marketing, where we support talented authors, as well as successful business owners in their marketing, by marrying social media, with more traditional approaches,
the goal is to help the client market their Book, Blog, or Business to the very best of their ability.
One of the best ways for me to do this, is to share tips with my clients, so that they can define the services I provide them, to better meet their needs.
This evening it gives me great joy to share with you an article Jo E. Pinto, author of The Bright Side of Darkness who just happens to also be a proofreader wrote for my Tips From Tell-It-To-The-World Marketing column.
The apostrophe is to me, much like the comma. A mystery, and here just in time is Jo to straighten all of us out.
by J. E. Pinto
In my work as a freelance proofreader, I see a lot of punctuation errors. The tricky apostrophe accounts for more than its share of them. The apostrophe is used to show singular and plural possession, to indicate contractions and omissions, to form rare plurals and handle some odd verbs, and to punctuate some holidays and set phrases. With so many jobs, the apostrophe is bound to pop up in the wrong place now and then or skip work altogether on occasion.
Singular and Plural Possession
The apostrophe’s most common duty is to show singular and plural possession. When the sentence is about one person, the apostrophe should be placed before the letter -s. When the sentence is about two or more people, the apostrophe comes after the letter -s.
The girl has skates. The girl’s skates are blue.
The boys are busy. The boys’ studying can’t be interrupted.
The exceptions are words like “children” and “geese” that are already plural. Those words take apostrophes before the letter -s when they become possessive.
The children’s laughter made me smile.
The geese’s feathers were covered with oil.
When there’s more than one person involved in the possession, in grammar as in real life, the issues get complicated. You need to decide whether the thing being possessed is held by people together or separately.
If people possess something together, use one apostrophe after the final name.
In my Novel, “The Bright Side of Darkness,” Mark and Grandma’s apartment is upstairs.
If the people hold their possessions separately, each name needs an apostrophe.
In “The Bright Side of Darkness,” although they are twins, Bryan’s and Stace’s grades in school are very different.
Avoid combining possessive nouns with possessive pronouns. The sentences sound awkward, even if they’re technically correct.
Daisy is the female protagonist in “The Bright Side of Darkness,” and I’m the author. Although we are both blind, Daisy’s and my background are not at all alike.
The second sentence sounds cumbersome. It could be better written as, “Although we are both blind, Daisy’s background and mine are not at all alike.”
Watch out! Apostrophes never make pronouns possessive. Pronouns have their own possessive forms. You becomes your, it becomes its, and they becomes their. “You’re,” “it’s,” and “they” are not possessive pronouns; they are contractions for “you are,” “it is” or “it has,” and “they are.” The incorrect use of “it’s” in place of “its” is probably the most common error I see as a proofreader. We’ll talk more about “its” and “it’s” later.
Contractions and Omissions
Contractions such as “it’ll” and “don’t” show that letters in the phrases “it will” and “do not” have been omitted. More obscure contractions such as “must’ve” for “must have” or “what’ll” for “what will” may also be used in casual writing. The use of contractions makes written dialog seem much less formal and stilted.
If you read very old manuscripts, you’ll find them literally littered with apostrophes. Printers in the 1860’s standardized apostrophe use, banning most of the sly little squiggles outright except in the cases of possession, contractions, and the formation of certain odd plurals, verbs, and set phrases.
When omitting the first two numbers while writing a year, insert an apostrophe in their place.
“The Bright Side of Darkness” is set in the late ’80’s.
Be careful. Many computer programs will insert a single opening quotation mark instead of an apostrophe before a year or a word. (See the first line of the next paragraph, where I did not correct the punctuation marks inserted before the years by the word-processing program on my computer.) Apostrophes and single opening quotation marks are not interchangeable because they face in opposite directions. The easiest way to get an apostrophe out of a stubborn word processor is to copy and paste one from elsewhere in your manuscript.
When I went to school in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, I was taught to use apostrophes to make years and abbreviations plural. Doing that got me A’s in English class. Of course, that was before VCR’s and CD’s burst upon the scene. “The New York Times” was the last major publication to drop the apostrophe in abbreviated plurals.
These days, kids get good grades for leaving out the apostrophes. VCRs and CDs have all but gone by the wayside, and in the 2020s, As and Bs won’t depend on apostrophe use. However, check individual apostrophe situations, because teachers still expect kids to dot their I’s and cross their T’s. Some of us who were educated before the turn of the New Millennium habitually place our apostrophes according to the old rules, so both ways will probably be seen in written works for the next few decades.
The Chicago Manual of Style recommends using “OD’d” for the past tense of “overdose” when it’s written “OD.” The Associated Press suggests using “OK’d” for the past tense and “Ok’ing” for the participle of the verb “to OK.” Confusion can be avoided by spelling out abbreviated verbs in full.
Holidays can be tricky because their names don’t follow a set apostrophe rule. We celebrate Mother’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day—we all have only one biological mother, and there was just one patron saint who, according to legend, drove the snakes out of Ireland. So these holidays are singular and possessive, written with apostrophes. But then there’s Veterans Day—many veterans have served our country. The holiday is written as a plural; no apostrophe. And Presidents’ Day is written as a plural possessive, with an apostrophe after the letter -s. When in doubt about a particular holiday, look it up.
Some phrases simply have to be memorized. “Two weeks’ notice” and “Money’s worth” take apostrophes. Phrases that end with “sake” call for a lone apostrophe if they end with an s-sound but need an apostrophe -s if they end with another letter. So “for goodness’ sake” requires a lone apostrophe, and “for pity’s sake” takes an apostrophe and a letter -s. Again, Google is your best friend.
After tragedy strikes in “The Bright Side of Darkness,” Rick Myers, the protagonist, finds a way to go on with his life for Daisy’s sake.
When Not to Use Apostrophes
“Its” and “it’s” are worth revisiting. When you write a sentence that has the word “its” in it, substitute the words “it is.” If the word “is” makes sense—”It’s my dog.”–add an apostrophe. If not—”Its tail is short.”–leave it out.
Similarly, “your” never needs an apostrophe, but “you’re” does. If you can substitute “you are” in a sentence—”You’re welcome at my house.”–use an apostrophe. If you are showing possession—your money, your book–scratch the apostrophe.
“They’re” is a contraction for “they are.” It takes an apostrophe. “There” is a location—”My house is over there.” “Their” is a word that shows plural possession—”Their hats are red.” “There” and “their” never need apostrophes. Substitute “they are” in the sentences you write. Unless “they are” makes sense—“They’re coming over.”–skip the apostrophe.
“Who’s” is a contraction for “who is” or “who has.” “Whose” is a personal pronoun—“Whose pen is this?”. Try “who is” or “who has” in your sentences. If “is” or “has” makes sense—“Who is your teacher?”–the apostrophe stays. If not, out it goes.
“The English language is a mess,” my eleven-year-old daughter lamented recently as she studied for a spelling test. I offered her my heartfelt sympathy. English is a rich and royal tangle of words and phrases from all over the world. The impossible apostrophe is one of its trickier components. But hopefully this overview will help make the pesky little punctuation mark easier to manage.
J. E. Pinto is a magnet for underdogs! Early in her married life, her home became a hangout for troubled neighborhood kids. This experience lit the flame for her first novel, The Bright Side of Darkness.
Pinto’s Spanish-American roots grow deep in the Rocky Mountains, dating back six generations. J. E. Pinto lives with her family in Colorado where she works as a writer and also proofreads textbooks and audio books. One of her favorite pastimes is taking a nature walk with her service dog.
The Bright Side of Darkness won a first place Indie Book Award for “First Novel over Eighty Thousand Words,” as well as First Place for “Inspirational Fiction.” The novel also won several awards from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association: First Place for “Inspirational Fiction,” Second Place for “Audio Book,” and First Place for “Literary and Contemporary Fiction.
What is a family? Rick Myers is a despondent seventeen-year-old who just lost his parents in a car wreck. His family is now the four teenage buddies he’s grown up with in a run-down apartment building. Fast with their fists, flip with their mouths, and loyal to a fault, “the crew” is all he has.
At least he thinks so until he meets Daisy, an intelligent, independent, self-assured blind girl. Her guts in a world where she’s often painfully vulnerable intrigue Rick, and her hopeful outlook inspires him to begin believing in himself.
But when the dark side of Daisy’s past catches up with her, tragedy scatters the crew and severely tests Rick’s resolve to build his promising future. Fortunately, his life is changed by a couple with a pay-it-forward attitude, forged out of their personal struggle with grief and loss. Their support makes all the difference to Rick and eventually to the ones he holds most dear as they face their own challenges.
“The Bright Side of Darkness” is a story of redemption and the ultimate victory that comes from the determination of the human spirit
If you would like to contact Author Jo E Pinto please feel free to e-mail:
To see her guest blog posts, please check out: https://blindmotherhood.com/.
Jo can also be found at: Looking On the Bright Side
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