The potty-mouthed guide to using apostrophes

If you find yourself swearing while figuring out when and where to use an apostrophe, you’re not alone.

This tiny punctuation mark causes a lot of confusion – which might explain why someone finally wrote a book called Fucking Apostrophes.

There are two things I admire about this pocket-sized guide to apostrophes:

  1. It doesn’t spell fucking as f*cking (an absurd bowdlerisation).
  2. It’s genuinely helpful.

Written by Simon Griffin, Fucking Apostrophes might initially seem more like a novelty gift than a handy writing guide – but it not only covers the most common mistakes people make when using apostrophes but also more technical issues for those who write for a living.

For example, most people know that you often use apostrophes to signal possession – such as in the cruel sentence: “Dan’s blog isn’t read by anyone.”

However, things become trickier when it comes to attributive nouns (when one noun describes another) and false possessives (when a word ending in an s looks like it ought to be possessive but isn’t).

For example, many people would mistakenly write “The Guns N’ Roses’ lead singer was running late” simply because Guns N’ Roses ends with an s – and yet they would never write “The Metallica’s singer was running late.”

The reason is there’s no possession here. Instead, Metallica is used as attribution to describe the singer – and so adding an apostrophe is wrong. The same applies to Guns N’ Roses – and so the sentence ought to be written “The Guns N’ Roses lead singer was running late.”

Confused?

Well, think of it this way: just because a word ends in an s doesn’t mean it needs an apostrophe.

The trick is to think of a similar word that doesn’t end in an s and see if that would require an apostrophe in the same sentence.

For example, if you’re unsure whether to add an apostrophe to the sentence “The New Orleans cuisine was delicious”, then replace New Orleans with a different city that doesn’t end in an s – such as New York – and see if you would add an apostrophe then. Since you would never write “The New York’s cuisine was delicious” you can see that New Orleans is, in this example, attributive and not possessive.

Still confused?

I don’t blame you. In that case, I recommend you either buy Griffin’s book or go to one of my grammar workshops.

And yes, that’s a shameless plug for me but hey – what do you expect in an article that uses the f word?

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