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Writing Well

Append That Apostrophe!


“Your welcome.”
“Their coming to the party.”
“Its too late to go out now.”

People who care about language grind their teeth when they see apostrophe errors like these. Yet I see this kind of mistake in many writing samples I receive before my writing trainings. Intelligent, educated people make ignorant errors.  Is it because people don’t know the rules, or because they don’t proofread? I don’t know, which is another way of saying, I do not know.  Regardless of the reason, errors in apostrophe use detract from your professionalism and cut into your credibility. You never know when you might be writing to a curmudgeon who will throw out the whole message because you wrote, “your welcome”. So let’s quickly go over the essence of apostrophes.

Apostrophes show possession or contraction. That’s it. They do NOT mark plurals.


That is John’s book.        The company’s annual report just came out.


The apostrophe shows where letters or numbers have been omitted.

He doesn’t work on Thursdays.        I’m not sure what you mean.    You’re welcome

They met in the ‘90s.  [Note that the apostrophe goes BEFORE the number, to show that the numbers 19have been omitted. It is a plural, so there is no apostrophe before the s.]

It’s and Its: A Common Confusion

Errors abound over this simple distinction.

Its is a pronoun meaning belonging to it.
The Post Office raised its rates.      The company issued its report.

It’s is a contraction of the words it is or it has.
It's wintertime now. It's been a year since we heard from them.

So if you are ever wondering whether to use its or it’s, just ask yourself this: What am I trying to say? Belonging to it?  Use its.  It is? Use it’s.

Why are people so often confused about its and it’s?The word its is possessive. But wait – didn’t we just say that apostrophes show possession? Here is where I think people become confused about its and it’s. They instinctively know the apostrophe shows possession, so they throw in an apostrophe when they meanbelonging to it.  

However, English grammar is not so straightforward. The apostrophe shows possession in nouns. There is no apostrophe in possessive pronouns such as his, hers, theirs, and yours. Its is a possessive pronoun, and therefore takes no apostrophe when showing possession.

Their/They're/There: What’s the difference?

                When people write in a rush, they often stumble over words that sound alike but have different meanings. Proofread everything and you will not confuse these words.
                Their means belonging to them.
                They’re is a contraction meaning they are.
                There means in or at that place.
They’re going to leave their briefcases there.

Your welcome/You’re welcome

In almost every case, when you write you’re welcome, you mean you are welcome. Thus, get in the habit of using the apostrophe. If you wanted to be extremely polite, you might write a sentence like,
Thank you for the invitation to your home for the weekend. Your welcome was most gracious.
However, that will be a rare thank-you note to write.
Just remember, though, that apostrophes never mark plurals. So all those signs you have seen that sayorganic salad’s, and 90’s hits and vendor’s register here are just plain wrong.  Use apostrophes for possessive nouns and for contractions, and you will not go wrong.

Bonus Quiz with Prize

If you can correct all these sentences properly, I will send you a bonus report on Commonly Misused Words and phrases.
Send your answers to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
1.            Your welcome to stop by the office any time. 
2.            They said its due to a late payment.
3.            What company get’s upset when your paying them?
4.            There were many Vendor’s to pay.  
5.            Employees needs are usually met. 
6.            Please let us know who you wish to pay for this weeks check run.
7.            The bank is in receipt of A/R Aging's (as of 1/9/15) and A/P Aging's (dated 12/31/14).
8.            Please see below for discussion of BORROWER and GUARANTOR cash flows' and attached Global  worksheet.
Good luck! I look forward to hearing from you. You can also hit reply to this email and I will receive your responses.

  © Elizabeth Danziger 2015 

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  • Taught by a professional writer. +

    These courses are not taught by a general skills trainer who happens to teach writing. Elizabeth Danziger has been published by major publishing houses such as Random House and Harcourt Brace. Her work has appeared in many national magazines. She is an expert writer and editor who brings her knowledge as a resource to participants.
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    With plenty of exercises and opportunities for interaction, the Worktalk trainings move quickly. Subjects that were terrifying in grammar school become fun and interesting in these outstanding programs.
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