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The Tragedy of MIsused Apostrophes

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 10/30/2012

You see them everywhere; misused apostrophes. Let's end the insidious misuse of apostrophes by teaching the rules the right way.

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    I had finally done it. I taught my students how to eliminate fragments and run-ons from their writing. Then I read their persuasive paragraphs and slunk to the ground in despair. I had not taught them when to use an apostrophe.

    I needed to punish myself, so I walked to the teachers' lounge and began slicing off fingers in the paper cutter. The loss of blood caused me to faint. When I awoke, over me hovered two apostrophes lamenting the lack of correct apostrophe use and the inability of me to teach apostrophe rules. They bandaged my hand, took me back to my classroom, kicked me in the face, and knocked me out again.

    When I awoke, an apostrophe use lesson plan lay on my desk. Unfortunately, the principal fired me because I bled on the teachers' lounge carpet and ruined it. I never got to use my lesson plan. But you can...

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    Apostrophe Rules

    Following are the most common apostrophe rules:

    Forming the Possessive:

    • For a singular noun or an indefinite pronoun, add an apostrophe and an s: skier's paradise; somebody's wallet
    • For a plural noun that ends in s (add only an apostrophe after the s): teachers' lounge
    • For a plural noun that does not end in s, add an apostrophe and an s: children's playland
    • For a name that is difficult to pronounce when an apostrophe and an s is added, add the apostrophe alone: Sophocles' plays
    • For two or more persons holding joint ownership, use an apostrophe and an s on the last name: Mary and Bob's Restaurant
    • For two or more persons holding separate ownership, add an apostrophe and an s to each name: Bob's and Betty's candy

    To Show Omission

    • To show missing letters in the formation of contractions: I can't go to the movies.

    Forming Plurals

    An apostrophe should almost never be used to form a plural. The one exception to this is when it is used for clarity to show the plural of single letters or numbers. For example:

    • Mind your p's and q's.
    • There are a lot of 0's on that page.
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    Procedures

    Students will complain that they've gone over apostrophe rules a billion times. It won't, however, stop them from making 37 apostrophe mistakes on the next assignment. If you're in to fun lessons (and who isn't?), trick them into learning with this interactive lesson plan:

    • Construct magnetic apostrophes for each student by drawing an apostrophe on one side of a small slice of paper and gluing a magnet to the other side (tape also works).
    • Construct a few s's as well.
    • Write or project a paragraph on the board in need of apostrophes. Feel free to steal mine:

    Roberto and Kims dogs got into a fight at the lunchladys house. One dog lost its collar. The other dog lost its leg. I had to call Franks lawyer to see what he could do. The lawyers name was Phoenix. Frank said I could visit Phoenix house, but I didnt want to drive over there. After all it was Roberto and Kims problem, not mine. Besides, Phoenix fees were outrageous. I left Bob and Kim to go watch a movie. For some reason 27 movie-goers dogs were fighting too. I called the police. They didnt believe me. They said to call someone elses phone, and that if I made one more prank call, they would take away my straight As from my 10th grade report card.

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    Unit Lesson Plans

    Looking for a language arts syllabus? Click the link and get an entire semester of lesson plans, handouts, and powerpoints.

References

  • Apostrophe: http://oxforddictionaries.com/words/apostrophe