Apostrophe, Hyphen, and Dash Help
Apostrophes are used to create contractions, to make nouns possessive, and, in rare instances, to make a noun plural.
Contract (con-TRACT) means to squeeze together or shorten. In informal writing, we shorten two words into one, using an apostrophe to create a contraction. For instance, has and not would become hasn't. The following table shows some other common contractions.
Note that contractions are not used in formal writing. Use formal writing mainly for academic or business communications; use informal, or more casual, writing for reader-friendly messages.
Possessives are nouns that show ownership. To make a singular noun possessive, add -'s. Be careful not to confuse the plural form of a noun with the possessive.
- The writer of the news stories won a Pulitzer.
- The news story's writer won a Pulitzer.
The first sentence tells us that the writer of multiple stories won a Pulitzer. The second sentence tells us the writer of one story won a Pulitzer.
To form the possessive of the plural noun stories, add an apostrophe after the final -s.
The news stories' writer won a Pulitzer.
This sentence also tells us that the writer of multiple stories won a Pulitzer. The -s' rule applies only to plural nouns ending with an -s. For example, the possessive of the plural noun children, which does not end in -s, would be children's.
To form the possessive of a singular noun ending with -s, do one of two things: add -'s or just add an apostrophe after the -s.
Kara Reynolds's picture was in the newspaper this morning.
Kara Reynolds' picture was in the newspaper this morning.
Plurals with Apostrophe + s
There are a few occasions when -'s is required to make a noun plural.
Add -'s to form the plural of abbreviations that contain more than one period, such as Ph.D. or M.D.
M.D.'s and Ph.D.'s are doctorate degrees in medicine and philosophy.
Add -'s to form the plural of words, letters, and numbers that we do not commonly see in the plural form.
How many um's and uh's did you count in the run-through of my speech?
I got four A's and two B's on my report card.
Please write your 5's and 8's more clearly on tests.
Hyphens and Dashes
Although they look similar, hyphens and dashes perform two completely different jobs; hyphens divide and join, while em-dashes interrupt and emphasize. Knowing the difference will help you better identify them in your reading and correctly utilize them in your writing.
Hyphens divide words at the ends of lines, separate numbers, join compound words, and attach prefixes and suffixes.
To divide a word at the end of a line of typed text, place a hyphen at a syllable break in the word.
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