Writing Tip #4: You’re mine–all mine! Using possessives


Photo: from Notorious, 1946. Public Domain/Creative Commons

Its or it’s? Your’s or yours? People’s or peoples’? Using apostrophes and apostrophe “s” can be very confusing. Here are a few rules to follow:

“Hers” never has an apostrophe— just as “his” doesn’t.

“It’s” is an abbreviation for “it is”: It’s a fine night for a walk by the ocean. I’d like to go out, but it’s pouring rain.

“Its” (without an apostrophe) shows possession: The train was slow, and its caboose was rusty. (The caboose belongs to the train.) The cat arched its back. (The back belongs to the cat.)

Singular and plural possessives: If a noun is singular (only one), then add  ‘s, even if the word ends in s: The woman’s mouth; James’s mouth

If a plural noun ends in an s, simply add an apostrophe after it: Four of my cousins’ apartments; three bankers’ cars

If more than one person owns something, add ‘s to the second name: Jack and Julia’s love affair was exciting to read about!

Have a question about writing? Please comment or email me: leslie@lesliewellsbooks.com

Leslie Wells has edited forty-nine New York Times bestsellers in her thirty-year publishing career. She is the author of Come Dancing, a novel about book publishing and rock music set in New York City in the 1980s. Visit her at www.lesliewellsbooks.com

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