The Other Marks

In addition to the stops, punctuation marks include the apostrophe, the quotation mark, the hyphen, the ellipsis, the parenthesis and bracket, and the diacritics. We look at these here, along with the related matters of capitalization and underlining.

The Apostrophe

The apostrophe has three main functions: it marks the possessive form of nouns and some pronouns, the contraction of two words, and the omission of sound within a word. It also appears in the plurals of certain abbreviations.

t> Apostrophe to Show Possession

Common Nouns

In their singular form common nouns that do not end in -s or another sibilant add -'s to show possession:

the cat's bowl, the girl's hat, the boy's jacket

Singular nouns with a final sibilant also generally add the -'s in modern convention:

the horse's tail, the apprentice's job

However, there is a minor variation of usage in this matter. If such a word has several syllables and the final one is unstressed, some writers and editors prefer to drop the -s, using the apostrophe alone to indicate possession:

for appearance's sake OR for appearance' sake

The issue can often be dodged by using an for the sake of appearance

Plural nouns ending in -s (the vast majority) add only an apostrophe:

the girls' books, the mechanics' toolboxes Those which do not end in -s add -'5: the men's books, the children's toys

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns that do not have a final sibilant follow the same rule as common nouns:

Sarah's house, Eisenhower's career

With proper nouns ending in sibilants, practice varies. If the noun is monosyllabic, it is conventional to add the full -'s:

Henry James's novels, John Keats's poetry

But opinion differs when proper names have more than a single syllable. Some people prefer -'s, some the apostrophe alone:

Reynold's paintings OR Reynolds' paintings

However, the -s should be omitted from the possessive of names containing several syllables if it would result in an awkward combination of sounds:

Jesus' ministry NOT Jesus's ministry Xerxes' army NOT Xerxes's army

When the plural form of a family name is used in the possessive, the apostrophe alone is called for:

the Browns' house, the Johnsons' boat


Indefinite pronouns form the possessive by adding -'s:

anyone's, anybody's, someone's, everyone's, and so on

The predicative possessive forms of the personal pronouns, however, do not use an apostrophe:

mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs

Its is especially likely to be misused, probably because of confusion with the contraction it's for it is. Never use it's for the possessive of it:

The cat washed its tail.

NOT The cat washed it's tail.

The possessive of who is whose, not who's, which is the contraction of who is.

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