When to Use an Apostrophe: A Beginner’s Guide to Showing Possession and Omitting Letters

An apostrophe is often abused.

You’ll see words like Do’s and don’ts!


The millennials will always lament about the 2000’s children. Haha!

Enough jokes already but you get the point.

Punctuation marks determine the clarity of your writing. Editors like me take it seriously.

Welcome to WritersGig’s apostrophe class.

What is an Apostrophe?

An apostrophe, pronounced ah-pah-stroh-fee is a punctuation mark (‘) mainly used to show possession/ownership of something, form contractions, and indicate missing words or numbers.

According to the Oxford Learners Dictionary, an apostrophe is used to show that some letters and numbers have been omitted from a word. near the top of a line of writing (‘). Apostrophes look like single quotation marks, but they’re used alone rather than in pairs.

Apostrophes mainly indicate that letters have been omitted or a noun’s possession. Occasionally, they can show that a single letter or number is plural.

See also: When to Use “Nor”: Clear Examples to Get It Right As a Writer

What are the rules of Apostrophe?

When signifying possession or ownership, the apostrophe should come immediately after the noun or pronoun, which is the owner of the item or person, followed by a’s’.

If the noun or pronoun already has “s” as its final letter, the apostrophe follows it. Furthermore, there is no need to add another “s” after the apostrophe.

An extra rule for using the apostrophe to signify possession is that it should only be used on the second word of a hyphenated compound word.

You can also apostrophe two nouns if they each have different ownership. If the nouns or pronouns have the same owner, end the second word or pronoun with an apostrophe and an “s.”

When an apostrophe is used to represent a number or a missing letter, it is inserted exactly where the letter is missing. Also, keep in mind that even if more than one letter or number is missing, you should only add one apostrophe.

Use an apostrophe to form contractions such as can’t, I’m, don’t, and so on. In these contractions, where the letters are missing, the apostrophe is also used between them.

When to use an Apostrophe

It is used to show possession, contractions, and omitted letters.

To show Possession

Using Apostrophe on possessive nouns causes more confusion than all the other uses.

The rule is different depending on the type of noun you are making possessive.

The rule is;

For singular nouns, add ‘s.

For example; The writer’s desk.

For plural nouns, add only an apostrophe

For example; the writers’ desk.

For plural nouns that do not end with an s, add ‘s

For example; the children’s toys

When t is a singular proper noun that ends with an s, you can add an apostrophe only. Some add -‘s

For example; the former is Charles Darwin’s’ discovery, and the latter Charles Darwins’s discovery.

No matter what you do, make sure to add an apostrophe to plural proper nouns that end in s. For instance The Lights’ House.

Possessive pronouns and apostrophe

Personal pronouns do not use apostrophes to form possession.

As a writer, we know that possessive pronouns like mine, his, her, and our do not need an apostrophe. Pronouns like your, yours, hers, its, ours, their and theirs do not also contain any apostrophe to form possession.

Joint Possession

If one item or thing belongs to more than one person, you will make one person which is the last name possessive.


Victory and Eze’s nail shop (Victory and Eze’s co-own the shop).

However, if the items belong to different people but you are talking about them together, then make all the names possessive.

For example: Victory’s and Eze’s nail shops (Victory owns a nail shop and Eze owns a different nail shop).

See also: When to Use a Dash: How and When to Use them in Your Writing

How To Use an Apostrophe To Omit Letters

One of the main uses of apostrophes is to replace missing letters in a word.

You can either create contractions or shorten the words.


Contractions are combinations of two words. It usually combines only words like will, have, would, are, is, and not.

I’ve instead of I have. He’ll instead of he will.

Shorten words

You use an apostrophe to replace missing letters in informal writing. Example; ‘fraid for afraid, ‘tis for this.

How To Use an Apostrophe for Plural Letters and Numbers

If you are a voracious reader, you’ll see where other writers used an apostrophe when describing plural lowercase letters and numbers.

This is the only time an apostrophe can be used to show plurals.

Be mindful of the usage because APA style doesn’t advise using ‘ this way.


Be sure to dot your I’s and cross your t’s.

How many 2’s are in 20222?

Quick Tips to Determine when to Use an Apostrophe as a writer?

This section will explain when you should not use an apostrophe. See this as a checklist.

  • Is apostrophe replacing anything? If not, don’t use it.
  • Will the apostrophe show the noun owns anything? Don’t use it if the response is no.
  • Will the sentence be confusing without an apostrophe? No? then don’t use it.
  • You don’t need an apostrophe for time periods and after numbers are written. For example;
  • The 2000’s is incorrect. The correct answer is The 2000s.
  • An apostrophe is also not needed after symbols, abbreviations, and possessive pronouns.

See also: When to Use ‘Et al.: A Simple Guide to Using ‘Et al. As A Writer


When you come across phrases that look weird on paper, just know that the problem may be from apostrophes. Apply the rules in this article to become a guru in using apostrophes as a writer.

Faqs on when to use an apostrophe

What is an apostrophe?

An apostrophe is a punctuation mark mostly used to show that you own or possess a person or thing. It can also be used to make contractions and stand in for letters and numbers that are missing.

Give an example of how apostrophe is used.

My great-grandfather’s 100th birthday is today.  
The ‘90s generation is unlike any other age.
Everyone keeps telling me that in every way, I am my mother’s daughter.
If you’d like, I can help you with your job.


  • NIU –when to use an apostrophe
  • Grammarly -when to use an apostrophe