Apostrophe Catastrophes‎

The author provides some tips on proper use of apostrophes in your writing.

I just visited the website of an independent film director I know. His About Us section had this tab:

The Exec’s

I thought, The Exec’s what? Did he mean “The Exec’s Background” or “The Exec’s Bio,” and did he just forget to include that extra word?

When I clicked that link, though, I realized he meant “The Execs” — plural, not possessive. But his mistake confused me in two ways — it made me assume there was a missing word, and it suggested the section was about a single exec’s… bio, background, or something else.

Turns out, the section included information on the company’s two executives.

This is a very common mistake that you’ve probably seen many times. Someone writes, “We have several solution’s” or “In the 1980′s….”

If you’re referring to a plural that is not possessive — “several solutions,” “the 1980s” — don’t use an apostrophe.

Related tip: Not sure whether or not to include the apostrophe? Google the word or phrase. Then, in the search results, look for the most reputable source that has your phrase or something similar — a dictionary entry, an article in a major newspaper or magazine. Follow their lead. If they don’t use the apostrophe, then you shouldn’t use it either.

About the Author

Robbie Hyman is a professional communications and public affairs writer. He has 15 years’ experience writing for nonprofits, small business and multibillion-dollar international organizations and is available as a freelance writer for federal agencies.

Robbie has written thousands of pages of content, including white papers, speeches, published articles, reports, manuals, newsletters, video scripts, advertisements, technical document and other materials. He is also co-founder of MoneySavvyTeen.com, an online course that teaches smart money habits to teenagers.