It's not tattoo's unless you're saying, "The tattoo's color faded." It's not you're unless you mean you are. It's not visitor's unless you're saying "It's because of my visitor's loyalty that I remain motivated to blog.
" It's not taco's and burrito's. It's not "kid's have fun on the weekend." It's not pizza's or computer's or banana's. Just because it has an "s" at the end, doesn't mean the word needs the little twiddly icon. Typos happen. I get it. But in most cases, incorrect usage has more to do with ignorance or confusion than mistakenly inserting or deleting an apostrophe.
As you can tell this is one of my pet peeves (along with the frequent abuse of the words loose and lose. Oh, and don't even get me started on the difference between their, they're and there. Hopefully, you'll know just how to use these three correctly by the end.) ... but coming back to the apostrophes: there are two big rules. Stick with them and you won't go wrong. Before I share those with you, though, here's a collection of pictures demonstrating how apostrophes are abused so rampantly in our daily lives.
Want more pics? Head on over to the Grocer's Pool.
The two rules of using apostrophes correctly.
1. The apostrophe denotes a missing letter or letters:
- can't -- which really means can not.
- don't -- which really means do not.
- it's -- which really means it is or it has.
- won't -- which really means will not.
- you're -- which really means you are.
- we're -- which really means we are.
- she's -- which really means she is.
- he's -- which really means he is.
- they've -- which really means they have.
Get the drift? If there is no missing letter, there is no apostrophe. Plurals, just by virtue of having an "s" don't need an apostrophe. Period.
2. The apostrophe denotes possession:
- the boy's hat (the hat belongs to the boy)
- the company's logo (the logo belongs to the company)
- the couple's house (the house that belongs to the couple)
- the writer's pen (the pen that belongs to the writer)
- And so on...
Based on the above rules and examples, the correct sentence will be "The cat lost its way" (not the cat lost it's way). Simply put, if you can insert it is or it has in place of it's only, and only then use the apostrophe. Otherwise, it's its. Same rule applies to the common mistake of using you're when people really want to say your. It's "your pen" not you're pen. The latter doesn't even make sense!
Grammar Divas have more detailed rules with examples in this post. If you've had enough of a lecture and want to see where you stand, give BBC's Apostrophe Quiz a twirl. Also, review the Apostrophe Tutorial and then take the Apostrophe Review test (has some GREAT examples). And before you go, have a look at this excellent post on how to stop killing the apostrophe by Lauren at Ballywick.
Got your own favorite grammar sites to share? Please add them in the comments section.
Happy apostrophizing -- or not!