How to Use English Punctuation Correctly-Part 4


1.Use the apostrophe together with the letter s to indicate possession. The apostrophe (” “) has a variety of uses for conveying the concept of possession. Be aware of the difference in using an apostrophe with singular or plural nouns. A singular noun will use the apostrophe before the “s” (‘s), whereas the plural version of that noun will use the apostrophe after the “s” (s’). This use comes with several stipulations discussed below.

  • Be mindful of nouns that are always considered to be plural, such as children andpeople. Here you should use ‘s even though the nouns are plural.
  • Also be aware of pronouns that are already possessive and do not require apostrophes, such as hers and its. (It’s means it is or it has). Their is possessive without apostrophe or s, except as a predicate adjective, where it becomes theirs.
  • Here is an example of an apostrophe used to show possession with a singular noun:

    The hamsters water tube needs to be refilled.

  • Here is an example of an apostrophe used for showing possession with a plural noun:

    In the pet store, the hamsters bedding needed to be changed.

  • Here is an example of an apostrophe used for showing possession with a plural noun that doesn’t end with “s”:

    These childrens test scores are the highest in the nation.

2.Use the apostrophe to combine two words to make a contraction. Contractions are shortened combinations of two words. For example, cannot becomes can’t, “it is” becomes “it’s”, you are becomes you’re, and “they have” becomes they’ve. In every contraction, the apostrophe replaces the letters that are omitted from one or both words.

  • Be sure to use the possessive pronoun your and the contraction you’reappropriately. It is a common mistake to interchange them.
  • Here is an example of apostrophes used for a contraction of it is and a singular noun with possession, while correctly being omitted for possessive pronouns (hers,theirs, its):

    Friends of hers explained that it’s her idea, not theirs, to refill the hamsters water tube and change its bedding.

3.Use a single quotation mark within a regular quotation to indicate a quotation within a quotation. Single quotation marks, which look almost identical to apostrophes, are used to separate quotations from other quotations which surround them. Use these carefully: always make sure every quotation mark used to start a quote is paired with a corresponding one at the end of the quote.

  • Here is an example of a quote-within-a-quote:

    Ali said, “Anna told me, I wasn’t sure if you wanted to come!

4.Don’t use an apostrophe with an s to make a singular noun into a plural noun.This is a very common mistake. Remember that apostrophes are not used to show the simple pluralization of a noun.

  • Here are examples of correct and incorrect apostrophe usage:

    CORRECT – apple → apples

    INCORRECT – apple → apple’s


1.Use the slash to separate and from or, when appropriate. Slashes ( ” / ” ) in phrases like and/or suggest that the options described are not mutually exclusive.

  • Here is an example of good “and/or” usage:

    To register, you will need your driver’s license and/or your birth certificate.

2.Use the slash when quoting lyrics and poetry to denote a line break. Slashes are especially useful when it is impractical to recreate the original formatting of a poem or song. When using slashes in this way, be sure to include spaces before and after the slashes.

  • Here is an example of slashes used to mark line breaks in a song:

    Row, row, row your boat / Gently down the stream. / Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, / Life is but a dream.

3.Also use the slash to replace the word and when joining two nouns. By replacingand with a slash, you suggest that there is equal importance in both options listed. Use these replacements in moderation to place greater emphasis where and may not do so, as well as to avoid confusing the reader. You can also do the same for or, as in his/her. However, you should not use the slash to separate independent clauses.

  • Here are examples of how to use and how not to use a slash in this way:

    “The student and part-time employee has very little free time.”
    “The student/part-time employee has very little free time.”

    “Do you want to go to the grocery store, or would you prefer to go to the mall?”
    “Do you want to go to the grocery store / would you prefer to go to the mall?”

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