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    The Art of Apostrophes

    Who cares about apostrophes? They’re just tiny, seemingly insignificant marks. You can hardly even see them! Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but they can be a much bigger deal than you realize.

    Here’s a classic case for you. October was Pastor Appreciation Month, and several local churches had nice, encouraging messages for their clergy on their marquees. (On a side note, marquees, especially church marquees, are often a veritable smorgasbord of grammar and spelling hilarity—but that’s a whole other post.) One particularly stood out, but probably not for the reason the church had hoped.

    The message read, “We love our pastor’s wives.” Well, after looking twice to make sure we weren’t passing a fundamentalist Mormon church, I had to laugh to myself. That one little misplaced apostrophe totally changed the meaning of what the church was trying to convey. (In case you’re wondering, the message should have read, “We love our pastors’ wives.” More than one pastor for more than one wife.) Here are some good rules of thumb for how to use apostrophes to show possession:

    • To show possession with a singular word, simply add an apostrophe and the letter "s." For example, to form the possessive of child, you simply write "child's."
    • This gets a little more complicated when you have a singular word that ends in "s" already, like boss. In this case, you can do one of two things. You can either simply add an apostrophe to the end of the word (e.g., boss') or add an apostrophe and the letter "s" (e.g., boss's). The important thing is to be consistent, whichever way you decide to go. I personally prefer the apostrophe "s" (i.e., boss's) construction because I think it's less confusing.
    • To show possession with a word that's already plural, you simply add an apostrophe to the end of the word. For example, if you had many dogs with lots of bones, it would be "the dogs' bones."

    The takeaway here is simple: always make sure you proofread your work. Even the smallest punctuation, from the apostrophe to the semicolon, can make a huge difference in the meaning of what you’re saying. It is usually best to get another set of trained eyes on what you're writing to make sure you avoid mistakes like these. You can make a polygamist out of someone without even realizing it if you're not careful!

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