Of Apostrophe Catastrophes There Is No End

The work of a language nerd is never done.

Possessive problems

In a recent LinkedIn posting, a fundraising person at an educational institution I attended referred to its’ proud history.

At least it wasn’t someone from the academic side.

One see it’s used (incorrectly) as a possessive. Properly, it’s is only ever a contraction for it is, but thinking it’s a singular possessive is an understandable error (if not a forgivable one).

But its’ as an ostensible singular possessive? Mind-boggling.

-S’ is reserved for possessives involving multiple parties (the articling students’ skit at the holiday party) or proper names ending in S (Davy Jones’ locker; but –s’s is also possible, as in Bridget Jones’s Diary).

Plural confusion

Also seen recently: payable in Euro’s. No! Euros, no apostrophe (and I’d prefer euros; you wouldn’t ordinarily write Pounds or Dollars).

Confusion may arise because one can pluralise some things with ‘s – but this is limited to letters and abbreviations (cross your T’s, MP’s voted yesterday).

Even there, the modern and better tendency is to omit the apostrophe (Ts, MPs), confining it to contractions and possessives.

Plural and possessive issues come to a head (as it were) in the name of a hair salon near my office: Razors Edge’s.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


  1. Loved this! My favourite from the many instances I’ve seen this error . . . Safety hat’s are mandatory beyond this point.

  2. But that problem is unlikely to come up for many lawyers who seem to distrust the possessive apostrophe, fearing its use would show they are not smart enough. Juniors often provide me with drafts featuring the equivalent of “the skit of the articling students” or “the diary of Bridget Jones.” I try to reassure them that simpler and shorter are better.

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