The apostrophe likes to walk on the wild side. They're these teeny, tiny punctuation marks that are majorly misused every single day. Apostrophes are used to indicate possession for nouns (not pronouns i.e. its, their, whose, and your). They're also friends to the contraction (i.e. it's, they're, who's, and you're).
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Possession and contraction. Well, don't be fooled by this little guy; he trips up millions of Americans all day, every day. Let's take a closer look and make sure we don't join the ranks of English-language-speakers who often confuse its (not it's) primary purpose.
Contractions were probably created to make things easier. They tighten up two words into one, offering an evasion from redundancy and over-usage. In the end, that didn't go so well, as contractions are regularly misprinted in writings all across the globe. Let's take a look:
In the land of texting, where we shorten "you" to "u", it's no surprise that we skip the apostrophe turning it's to its. Of course, it's is used as an abbreviation to it is, while its is used to show possession.
Anytime you see an it's or an its in your writing, double check the sentence. If you can say "it is" in its place, then you DO need the apostrophe. If its is showing something has possession or ownership of something, then you do not need an apostrophe and using its is correct.
Remembering that apostrophes mainly like to hang out with contractions, there's only one time an apostrophe enters into the there, they're, their family.
Here's another misunderstood contraction. Here, we have who's (who is) and whose - a personal pronoun.
Just in case we didn't drive the contraction thing home yet, let's look at one more common error that makes every editor, professor, and book aficionado cringe.
Similar to the its vs. it's premise, just double check the sentence. If you can say "you are" in its place, then keep it hanging. If it is showing possession (your dog, your usage), you do not want to use an apostrophe.
Everyone loves a hot debate, right? Well this is the hottest one in town! Do you put an apostrophe after a date like the one above? Well, there's really no need for such hot debate, as you only have to ask yourself two quick questions. Is it a contraction? (Definitely not.) Is it showing possession? Well, let's take a look:
This is a tough pill to swallow. Proceed with caution and try not to cringe. What's wrong with this restaurant sign?
Bob's Cheesesteak's and Cubano's
For some reason, the apostrophe wants to crash the plural party. (It's very rarely invited.) If, however, a plural word needs to show possession, then - as we know - it's time for the apostrophe to come on over. So, the sign above should read:
Bob's Cheesesteaks and Cubanos
Remember, if it's a contraction or a possession, only then are apostrophes on the guest list. However, an apostrophe showing the possessive on a plural needs to go after the s that is making the word plural. It would be acceptable if the above sign read:
Bob's secret is in his cheesesteaks' (plural and possessive) sauce.
Or, it could reference a singular cheesesteak and say:
Bob's secret is in his cheesesteak's sauce.
The point is, no possession, no apostrophe.
This was fun, right? Apostrophes like to dance and twirl in the air, but they're finicky little buggers who only like to express their jubilation when the timing is right. Only two occasions will give them cause to hop out onto the dance floor: contractions and possessions. If we can all remember that, then we're one step closer to becoming apostrophe aficionados, and who wouldn't like a title like that?