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The following aren’t strictly FAQs, more RAQs - recently asked questions - that have been asked via this site’s apostrophe query email service. Hopefully, these may help someone who has a similar apostrophe ‘dilemma’. Please keep your queries coming.


Apostrophe FAQs

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Where should the apostrophe go in “Old Peoples Homes”?

Old People’s Homes

Just because “people” is a plural word, it is not treated differently - it’s the same with “children, men and women”. The apostrophe goes immediately after the word that is the answer to the question “To whom or what do the homes belong? The answer is the “people” (not “peoples”) and therefore it goes immediately after “people”.

Does “learners” in the following sentence have an apostrophe? “One of our learners who was recently awarded...”

“Learners” in this context is not possessive (nothing belongs to the learners) and therefore an apostrophe would be wrong. The correct statement is “One of our learners who was recently awarded...”

Which is correct: Thomas’s room or Thomas’ room?

The correct version is Thomas’s room. Even though Thomas ends in an “s”, you can still add an apostrophe “s”.  If you say  it out loud you would say it with a double “s”, which is always a good test.

Phone or ‘phone - which is correct?

In commonly used abbreviations such as phone, flu, bus, these are now accepted nouns in their own right and don’t take an apostrophe. If you look in the Oxford Dictionary, you will find it as phone. Phone book is also an official noun, as are phonecard and phone bank.

Should an apostrophe always be used to indicate a shortened word? When that word is plural - e.g. "puds" - an apostrophe between d and s looks like a very incorrect usage of apostrophes with plurals. Should we just not use an apostrophe here to indicate a contracted word?

There are (as always) exceptions to the following but this is a guideline. As you say, the apostrophe is only needed when the word is contracted, rather than abbreviated. When a word is contracted, it's normally the vowels that are omitted (although not always ie, ne'er for never; o'er for over) ie, haven't; I'm; it's; there's and where two words are merged into one.

Where a word is really just shortened ie, pud for pudding; ad for advertisement; pub for public house; demo for demonstration; then an apostrophe is not needed and would be actually incorrect and confusing for the reader.

Should it be Pepys’s or Pepys’ diary? Also, could you provide me with a few rules on how to use apostrophes when using the words mens and womens?

It should be "Samuel Pepys's diary".
Another similar example is "Mr Jones's diary".
(The latter is commonly seen as "Mr Jones' diary" but this is incorrect,
just as "Samuel Pepys' diary" would be incorrect.) The question to ask is "whom does the diary belong to or refer to?" The answer is "Jones" and the apostrophe goes after Jones or Pepys and then you add the "s".

As far as women and men in the possessive sense is concerned, again the
question you need to ask is "whom do the histories belong to or refer to?" The answer
is the "women and men" and therefore the apostrophe goes after whatever
word(s) the answer is. The correct way to write your sentence is: "However, rather than women's and men's histories remaining separate of one another..."

(If the answer to the question had been "womens and mens" then the
apostrophe would have gone after the 's' in both words - however, this would
be nonsense anyway because you cannot say that the histories belong to
womens or to mens because these words do not exist - women and men are the
plural forms anyway.)

If I am writing about an award from multiple people, can you confirm where the apostrophe should be? ie, Coaches Player of the Year (there are two coaches) and also Players Player of the Year (there are several players).

It should be “Coaches' Player of the Year” and “Players' Player of the Year” - the question to ask is "Whom or what does the Player of the Year belong to or refer to?" The answer is Coaches or Players and so the apostrophe goes after these word(s). If the answer had been Coach or Player then the apostrophe would go after the word Coach or Player ie, before the 's'.

Where should the apostrophe go to show possession when the word has an ‘s’ at the end, for example, is it Mrs Morris’s class or Mrs Morris’ class?

You would still add an 's' as for normal apostrophe rules ie, Mrs Morris's class.

For the most part you would only omit the 's' for names that end in 'es' that are pronounced with an 'iz' sound ie, Mercedes (as in the girl's name) - Mercedes' house, or for example, Hodges - Mr Hodges' car. But it's definitely Mrs Morris's class.

Should there be an apostrophe in the word “ones” in the following sentence: These books, which are the ones I am giving to the charity shop, are getting in the way.

No, there is no apostrophe in word 'ones' in this sentence because it is only a plural. Plurals (such as potatoes, ideas, bargains) never take an apostrophe.

Is there an apostrophe in “goats meat”?

This is slightly difficult to say definitively but I would write “goat’s meat” ie, the meat of/from a goat, rather than meat from goats. Similarly, I would use “lamb’s liver” meaning the liver from a lamb rather than several lambs.

Where should the apostrophe go in the following:

Members Award Evening

Mens Captain

Seniors Captain?

a) Members' Award Evening

(rationale: the Award Evening belongs to (or refers to) the Members, so the apostrophe goes after the 's') - the question you need to ask is "Whom does the award evening belong to or refer to?" Whatever the word is in the answer then the apostrophe goes immediately after it. If the answer were the Member then it would go before the 's')

b) Men's Captain

(again - whom does the Captain belong to or refer to? Answer - the Men, therefore it goes before the 's'). This is a tricky one simply because the word 'men' is plural anyway - it's the same as 'Children'.

c) Seniors' Captain

(again - whom does the Captain belong to? Answer - the Seniors - assuming you're referring to more than one Senior in the context of your query - and so the apostrophe goes after the 's'.)

“Children’s party” - simple enough to get the apostrophe in the right place. BUT, does it stay in the same place if “party” becomes “parties”, or should I move it to after the “s” in “childrens”?

Even though there is more than one party  it is still “the children’s parties”. You need to ask “whom do the parties belong to?” The answer is the “children” and therefore the apostrophe goes after the word “children”. It would be the same if it were the men’s cars, for example ie, whom do the cars belong to? Answer: the men. You would never put an apostrophe after the “s” in children or men - it should never be childrens’ or mens’ under any circumstances - this would always be incorrect.

Do you need an apostrophe after “ones” in: “How to explore ones culture and the influences it has on routines”?

This refers to the culture belonging to “one” in the singular and it is possessive because it is the shortened form of “the culture of one” - the apostrophe goes before the “s”. The correct way to write this is: How to explore one’s culture and the influences it has on routines.

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