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University of Newcastle Library guides

Common feedback comments and what they mean: Using Apostrophes

This guide lists some common feedback comments and explains what they mean.

Using Apostrophes

Using apostrophes

Apostrophes have two uses.
1.    They show that something ‘belongs to’ something else.
2.     They are used to stand for missing letters in a word e.g. ‘don’t’ meaning ‘do not.’

1.    Apostrophe of ownership or possession
Possession is when one noun has or owns another noun, shown with an apostrophe.

     Example: The dog’s bowl is empty.

The apostrophe here is telling the reader that the bowl belongs to the dog.

 An apostrophe is also used to tell the reader that a group has ownership of something.
           Example:  The dogs’ bowl is empty.

The apostrophe here is telling the reader that more than one dog owns the bowl.
 When a person’s name ends in ‘s’ you can add an apostrophe and s to show possession.
           Example:  Jones’s theory revolutionised the discipline.

To show joint ownership, add an apostrophe and s to the last word only
           Example: Green and Johnson’s research has been internationally recognised.

If ownership is not joint, add an apostrophe and s to each name.
          Example: Green’s and Johnson’s research have been internationally recognised.

Apostrophe of contraction

To indicate contraction, that is, the shortening of a word by the omission of a letter.
             Examples: Don’t is the contracted word for ‘do not’.
                              I’d is the contracted word for ‘I would’.

       We do not use contracted words in formal academic writing.

A common mistake
It’s and its
 In the word ‘it’s’ the apostrophe indicates a contraction of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’.
 “Its” on the other hand, is a possessive personal pronoun, meaning ‘of it’ or ‘belonging to it’.
Whenever you write the word ‘it’s’, ask yourself if you mean to say ‘it is’. If not, then choose ‘its’.


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