Grammar Help: Apostrophes

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There is a little punctuation mark that has a giant dilemma: the apostrophe. Little Apostrophe likes to hang around in contractions and possessives, but many times gets thrown into places where he doesn’t like to be—especially plurals. Little Apostrophe doesn’t understand why people insist on forcing him into places he doesn’t want to go. Let’s find out how to protect Little Apostrophe . . .

1. Contractions and abbreviations: Apostrophes are used when two words are joined together and/or when letters are omitted (contractions such as can’t, won’t, didn’t, ’tis and abbreviations such as ’em, ’07, or ’99). When the apostrophe comes at the beginning of the word (as in ’tis), the opening of the curve goes toward the letters that have been omitted. This differentiates it from a single quote mark. 

don’t—contraction of do not. The apostrophe replaces the letter (o). (Bedford 36c, CMS 7.31)

rock ’n’ roll—abbreviation of and. The apostrophes replace the (a) and the (d). (Bedford 36c, CMS 7.31)

’tis—the apostrophe would be pointing toward the omitted letter (i) to form the contraction for it is. (Bedford 36c, CMS 7.31)

’07—the apostrophe would be pointing toward the omitted numbers (20) to indicate the shortened form of the year 2007. (Bedford 36c, CMS 9.34)

2. Possessives: This is another area where I saw a lot of people struggle gramatically in the Genesis contest. According to the CMS “general rule” (7.17)– “The possessive of most singular nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s, and the possessive of plural nouns (except for a few irregular plurals that do not end in s) by adding an apostrophe only.” Before adding an apostrophe or an —’s to the word, please examine the word to make sure it’s singular or plural first. (CMS 7.17–7.18.)

This is Jones’s dog / This is the Joneses’ dog (the first indicates there is only one Jones, the second that there are two or more Joneses who own the dog—the confusing thing is that both are pronounced the same when spoken).

This is the childrens’ first play date / This is the children’s first play date (the first is just completely wrong, because children is already plural, therefore, adding an –s before the apostrophe is incorrect)

It’s so easy, it’s child’s play.

(See CMS 7.19–7.22 for exceptions)

3. Plurals: Apostrophes are never, never, never, never, never, never used to create plurals*. Plurals are formed by adding an –s or –es (or –ies for words that end with y) to the end of the word (for the most part—there are those that completely change form when made plural, like women and children)—even when they are proper names or single capital letters. Don’t apologize for adding an –s to a word by feeling you have to put in an apostrophe. Be bold! Just add the –s! For example:

Keeping up with the Joneses

We’re taking the kids to the beach.

The Jacksons live here.

The three Rs: reading, ’riting, and ’rithmetic. (what educator ever came up with that?)

the 1990s, the 1800s, I Love the ’80s.

even abbreviations: vols. (for volumes), eds. (for editions)

no ifs, ands, or buts

The Dos and Don’ts of Networking

yesses and nos

*Exception: Okay, so there are two very rare instances when you would use an apostrophe to create a plural: with lowercase letters (dot your i’s and cross your t’s) and with abbreviations that have internal periods or use both captial and lowercase letters (M.A.’s, Ph.D’s—though the trend is toward omitting the periods, so in this case these would become MAs and PhD’s–with the apostrophe with the second due to the lowercase h). See CMS 7.14–7.16 for further examples and explanations.

Works Cited:
Hacker, D., & Sommers, N. (1998). The Bedford Handbook. (5 ed.). Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martins.

Press, U. O. C. (2006). The chicago manual of style. (15 ed.). Chicago, London: University Of Chicago Press.

How Much Do You Want It?

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What are you willing to sacrifice to succeed?

How important is your college education to you?

Or, as phrased by Eric Thomas, the Hip Hop Preacher, in the video below, “How bad do you want it?”

Now is when the reality sets in of how difficult this journey is. So all of you should be asking yourselves those questions.

Video—How Bad Do You Want It?

(video link:




“When you want to succeed as bad[ly] as you want to breathe, then you will be successful.”


“Most of you don’t want success as much as you want sleep. Some of you love sleep more than you love success. And I’m here to tell you today, if you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to be willing to give up sleep. You’ve got to be willing to work with three hours of sleep—two hours of sleep—if you really want to be successful. Someday you’re going to have to stay up three days in a row. Because if you go to sleep, you might miss the opportunity to be successful.”


“Don’t cry to quit. You’re already in pain; you already hurt. Get a reward from it.”


All quotes © by Eric Thomas


So . . . how much do YOU want it?

Destination, Determination, Deliberation

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Anyone who is familiar with the Harry Potter novels will know that I lifted the title of this e-mail from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. These are the three guiding principles behind apperating—the way wizards in his world travel, disappearing from one place and appearing in another (like a Star Trek transporter without the technology, just magic).

As a kid/teen, I didn’t enjoy school. So the first time I tried college, it didn’t work. I ended up dropping out at age twenty-one and going to work full time. But working first as a telephone operator for AT&T and then in the newspaper/advertising industries for many years, I started considering my DESTINATION. Where was my life going? Was I on a path that would lead me to fulfillment and happiness? Or was I just jogging in place, not going anywhere? Being honest with myself, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere and that’s not what I wanted from life. So what did I need to do? I needed to go back and finish what I’d started ten years earlier—my college degree.

But just making that decision didn’t give me smooth sailing. Which brings me to DETERMINATION. When I started looking at colleges, I had few options—because I was in a traditional degree program (not a lot of long-distance English programs out there!), I needed a school close to downtown Nashville, where I worked at the time. I also needed one that would work with me when it came time to take classes that weren’t scheduled during lunch-hour times or after hours. But because I’d become passionate, driven—DETERMINED—that I wanted to go back to school, I didn’t let any of the hurdles or problems deter me. And, eventually, I ended up enrolled and in classes at Trevecca. And you know what? It was HARD! It was hard to want to go to class every day. It was hard to give up social activities because I had to study for an exam or write a paper or read something for class the next day. It was hard to give up so much of my time, especially for those required classes that felt useless to me because they weren’t part of my major. But, then, that DETERMINATION would kick in and make me plow through it—because I would remind myself of my DESTINATION: a college degree and a career instead of “just a job.”

But even with a passion for my goals (destination) and the willpower to see those through to the end (determination), I still wouldn’t have made it had it not been for DELIBERATION. I operate best with set schedules and deadlines. Before each semester began, I set a schedule for myself, planning out my evenings and weekends so that I had plenty of time for my schoolwork—but also time for enjoyment and relaxation. And the more deliberately I stuck to that schedule, the less stressful my life was for the three and a half years it took me to finish that bachelor’s degree—and the two years after that for my master’s.

So my challenge to you, as you prepare to enter the last week of your first course, is to ask yourself these questions as you consider the rest of your time at Bethel:


1. What is your DESTINATION? Why did you register for school?

2. How strong is your DETERMINATION? Are you passionate about pursuing a college degree? Are you willing to make sacrifices to see this through?

3. Are you approaching this program with DELIBERATION? What changes have you made/are you willing to make to be able to commit the time needed to your studies?


Comments Off on Proofreading

Let’s talk a little about proofreading—you know, that grammar stuff.

Go ahead, roll your eyes. I’ll wait.

Okay. Now . . . one of the things you are going to have to do in the CCJ program is write. And you need to do it right. Facilitators can and will deduct points from your grade for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors in your Discuss and Complete posts, replies, and answers.

Grammar Basics

Here’s a great PDF grammar handbook, which can help you with almost all of your writing questions:

Not sure how to spell something? Not sure what word you want? Should it be capitalized? Look it up!
There are wonderful resources online now which can help you polish up your writing in no time! I recommend bookmarking these two so you can find them quickly whenever you need them. (online dictionary) (online thesaurus)

Is it your or you’re? There, their, or they’re? Affect or effect?
Homonyms and words with similar but distinct meanings are easy to get mixed up. Here’s a list of commonly misused words with an explanation of how to use them correctly:

Before the end of the week, go back and re-read the assignments or discussions you’ve written. Do you need to fix anything before it’s graded?

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