End apostrophe abuse now!

In my day (the '70s) you were constantly corrected for abusing apostrophes. Nowadays, who cares? Well, I do and you should too

It's official. Apostrophes are being abused all over Australia. The delicate and special apostrophe is being trotted out on display whenever people have doubts about their grammar.

Apostrophes have been hauled into the public arena and slapped around for all to see - on signs, directions, advertising and on the internet.

So much so, that I'm thinking of forming a political party with the theme:

s'top apo'strophe abu'se

So, just how has this apostrophe abuse happened in Australia? Surely, our primary school teachers taught us the relevant rules. In my day (the '70s) you were constantly corrected for abusing apostrophes. Nowadays, who cares? Well, I do and you should too.

Here are the six main rules for correct apostrophe use:

1. Never use an apostrophe to form a plural (ie. more than one), as in:

  • DVD's for sale (wrong!)
  • We make sign's (really wrong, especially for a sign-maker)
  • Pony's for sale (wrong spelling and wrong apostrophe)
  • Town house's for sale (OMG, I saw this once!)
  • The 1990's (wrong, it's the 1990s – well it was about two decades ago)
  • 2. An apostrophe is used to show the omission of letters in a shortened word, as in:

  • I'm tall (short for I am. We are leaving out the a, so an apostrophe is used)
  • you're silly (you are – not to be confused with your, as in your silly hairdo)
  • who's that at the door? (who is – not to be confused with whose, as in whose voice can I hear at the door?)
  • 3. An apostrophe denotes that someone owns something. This is called a possessive singular noun, as in:

  • Kim Kardashian's baby
  • TAFEnow's courses
  • Jake's Audi
  • 4. For plural possessive nouns, use an apostrophe after the plural word, as in:

  • The twins' netball team
  • The celebrities' red carpet (used by more than one celebrity)
  • The Sparkes' family farm
  • 5. If the word is plural and does not end with an s, you add an apostrophe, followed by an s. This is called a plural possessive noun, (not ending in s):

  • The women's football team
  • The children's television channel
  • The men's parenting group
  • 6. Use an apostrophe when two or more people or groups own the same thing, as in:

  • Michele and Claude's bicycle
  • Rod and Bessie's place
  • Ted and Alice's restaurant
  • So, that's the shortened version. It saves you yawning through about five years of grammar lessons.

    The very amusing website Oatmeal has a great set of posters about grammar that'll really get you laughing. There are posters about irony, how to use a semicolon, when and when not to use i.e. in a sentence and 10 words you need to stop misspelling. Make them your bible and you'll become the teacher's pet.

    So, feel free to send in your real-life photos of apostrophe abuse; I'd love to publish them on my next blog. I reckon I'm not the only one who gets raving mad about apostrophe abuse.

    This post was originally published on TAFEnow on 20 March 2014. TAFEnow is an Australia-wide online provider, operating out of North Coast TAFE, one of the 10 TAFE NSW Institutes. Enquiries can be directed to