Confused by Apostrophes?

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

Judging from the number of errors we see - even in headlines on the front page of our local newspaper - it seems that a whole lot of people are confused by apostrophes.

The first rule to remember is that they're almost NEVER used to form a plural.

The exception: When they're used to form the plural of letters and expressions that are not commonly used in plural form. For instance, When you say "There are no if's, and's and but's" or "Mind your p's and q's."

So, if you're talking about two or more REALTORS, houses, school districts, comparable sales, agents, statistics, yard signs, flyer boxes, or clients, you don't use an apostrophe. 

When you add an apostrophe to form a plural, you definitely confuse the reader. You're going on about something concerning two or more people or things and your reader is still back there looking for the "something" that should have come after the possessive. 

When our local newspaper ran a story about the Rotary club raising money to help "Grandma's" in Africa, I was really confused. Grandma's what?  Whose Grandma? 

I'm sure I wasn't the only one trying to figure out what they were talking about. 

An apostrophe is used either to form a contraction or to indicate possession. 


  • It is - it's
  • We are - we're
  • confused monkey
  • Can not - can't
  • Do not - don't


  • Mary's doll
  • Billy's car
  • Jake's new listing
  • Jake and Mary's new listing
  • Tom and Helen's wedding 
  • anybody's guess
  • somebody's mistake

When the noun is plural and already ends in s, simply add the apostrophe at the end:

  • the girls' Mom
  • the teachers' break room
  • the agents' meeting
  • the REALTORS' tour

Pronouns that are already possessive don't use an apostrophe:

yours, his, hers, ours, theirs, its

NOTE* One of the most common errors we see is the apostrophe used in its when its is a possessive pronoun.
It's ONLY stands for "It is" - never for "belonging to it."



Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Kathy Streib 08/18/2013 03:55 AM
  2. Roy Kelley 08/18/2013 08:38 PM
  3. Brian Sharkey 08/18/2013 11:37 PM
  4. Donna Foerster 08/23/2013 03:44 AM
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Jane Chaulklin-Schott
TEAMCONNECT REALTY - (407) 394-9766 - Orlando, FL
TeamConnect Luxury Homes - Orlando, Florida, 32836
About 10 years ago I was reading some of my granddaughter's assigned papers. I was surprised the high grades she received as the written assignments glared with misspelled words and grammatical errors. Still amazed today - the school principal and 5th grade teacher told us of the new system - in essence, content was the major factor - CONTENT WAS KING. Have a feeling that my 5th grade teacher, Sr. Georgina, would have an argument here.
Aug 18, 2013 08:54 PM #62
Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group
Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001 - Gaithersburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

Another lesson learned. .thank you for sharing your wisdom. . 

Aug 18, 2013 10:58 PM #63
Brian Sharkey
SharkeyRE LLC - Port St Lucie, FL
SharkeyRE - #SouthFloridaBroker

Marte, This is a great post for all those parents out there with kids going back to school today.  Good thing to remember in case they may need some help with homework.

Aug 18, 2013 11:37 PM #64
Shirley Parks
Sands Realty 210-414-0966 - San Antonio, TX
Broker, 210-414-0966, San Antonio TX Real Estate

Hi Marte, I notice a surprising number of grammatical errors.  Grammar and spelling seems to have fallen by the wayside these days.

Aug 18, 2013 11:54 PM #65
Phil Stevenson, CRMP
PS Mortgage Lending 305-791-4874 or 888-845-6630 - Miami, FL
"Mortgage Nerd" in Miami, Florida and Texas

Marte, thank you for the valuable information. I'm guilty of the "it's" and "its" mistake. I always have to go back and check how and for what I'm using it. It takes more work but the posts look better.

Aug 19, 2013 12:15 AM #66
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

John - You're welcome, and thanks for the compliment. 

Nina - Perhaps it depends upon the quality of the school. Some teachers think punctuation is important, and some don't. 

Jane - Isn't that sad? Content does matter - but if it's written so no one knows what it means, what's the point? I've seen this too - many years ago I was helping with a 4-H group, checking workbooks before fair time. One girl in particular stood out because she was an honors student and her workbook was filled with spelling and grammar errors.

I think it isn't fair to the kids to tell them they're doing well when they haven't learned the basics. 

Fernando - Thank you for reading.

Brian - Oh, today! That's awful - it's still summertime. Remember when school started the day after Labor Day, and we were freed on Memorial Day? 

Shirley - Yes, in many cases it has - at least with people who aren't intent on communicating well.

Phil - The first step toward getting it right is knowing what you aren't sure of - so you can check your own work. 

Aug 19, 2013 01:09 AM #67
Roger Stensland
Keller Williams Realty Puget Sound - Maple Valley, WA
Let's Move!

My only question is do you really use an apostrophe in no if's, and's or but's?  I wouldn't because they are neither contractions nor do they show possession.  However, you are the expert and so I'll have to defer to your expertise. 

The thing that really gets me is the improper use of me and I.  Most people use them improperly, even the writers for the newscasters.  That is one place where I would expect I would always expect grammar to be correct and exact.

Aug 19, 2013 01:12 AM #68
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Roger - I'm really not an expert and probably would NOT have used the apostrophe in that case - but I deferred to a real expert: The Grammar Girl. 

Improper use of me and I grates on my nerves too. I have a neighbor who used to say he had to get home to "Cook dinner for Hazel and I." The funny (?) part is that he's a retired teacher. He loves words and loves to show off by using words he thinks other people don't know. 

Aug 19, 2013 01:55 AM #69
Christine Farkas
Keller Williams Western Realty - Bellingham, WA
Awesome Customer Service Experience

It's the little rules in grammer that people tend to throw out the window. In speech such things aren't noticable but you start getting a person to put their thoughts down on paper and they just light signal fires!! I have to remember to slow down, and I read over what I write. With a keyboard and the speed in which I type it's not uncommon to find all sorts of wierd errors.

Aug 19, 2013 03:00 AM #70
Greg Nino
RE/MAX Compass, formerly RE/MAX WHP - Houston, TX
Houston, Texas

my favorite's'

are irregardless advise and advice

Aug 19, 2013 03:05 AM #71
Kelly Taylor
Keller Williams - Lakewood Ranch, FL

Apostrophes seem to be a big problem for some people. Thanks for the reminders. I always trip up on the possesive plurals.

Aug 19, 2013 03:06 AM #72
Bryan Robertson
Los Altos, CA

I'm having flashbacks to gradeschool!  There are still a lot of folks out there who make this little errors from time to time.  I think this very clear way of shows the differences.

Aug 19, 2013 03:06 AM #73
Rosie Moore
Serving Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, Missouri City - Sugar Land, TX
I used to be a tv journalist so lack of punctuation drove me crazy. Besides apostrophes, another common mistake are homonyms where two words sound the same but are spelled differently depending on usage such as "wear" versus "where." I recently read a church bulletin that read, "Make sure you where the church t-shirts to the picnic." I've even caught misspellings in published books!!
Aug 19, 2013 03:12 AM #74
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Christine - I make all sorts of wierd errors, too - and my typing is getting worse, especially when the cat decides to sit on my lap. 

I agree about sloppy speech habits translating to sloppy writing. Our local news editor always writes "should of" instead of "should have." It bugged me so much that I wrote and told her it was an error - but she continues to write it. 

Greg - I see advise for advice on AR all the time. I think irregardless is a misguided attempt to be more correct. Kind of like using myself and whom in the wrong places.

Kelly - Yes, those I have to stop and think about. 

Bryan - When I can, I try to find mind tricks to help those who are uncertain remember which words to use. For instance, we hear with an ear, and here and there are both places. 

I really feel for those who are trying to learn English as a second language. It has to be torture. 

Rosie - Ouch! That's a bad one. I too have seen misspellings and typos in published books - proving that even a professional proofreader can miss something once in a while. 



Aug 19, 2013 03:30 AM #75
Paul Collier
Patriot Home Mortgage - Huntington Beach, CA
Paul Collier

Using correct apostrophes and other grammar is an easy enough way to score some smart points with people who care about those types of things (because, trust me, those of us who care REALLY care and do--despite our best efforts--tend to judge those who are grammatically sloppy). Hopefully frequent bloggers and others who do writing on a regular basis will copy, paste, and print your rules and keep them somewhere easily accessed.

Aug 19, 2013 05:09 AM #76
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Paul - That's true... "despite our best efforts." 

I'm a whole lot more forgiving when I know English is the person's 2nd or 3rd language, because I think English would be VERY difficult to learn. 

Aug 19, 2013 06:40 AM #77
Mary Weiss
Zillow Group Mortgages - Seattle, WA
Trainer & Content Manager

I see this all the time! Extra apostrophes for possession and the misuse of "your" to replace "you're" are my two biggest grammar pet peeves. It's like nails on a chalkboard to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your post. I'm hoping people will be more mindful now. =)

Aug 21, 2013 08:31 AM #78
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Mary - That would be nice, but I have a feeling most of the people who read posts about grammar already know how to use it well. 

Aug 21, 2013 09:28 AM #79
David Shamansky
US Mortgages - David Shamansky - Highlands Ranch, CO
Creative, Aggressive & 560 FICO - OK, Colorado Mtg

Yes I often get scolded for this and often reply with go ahead and fire me.

While I agree with you on this, there is WAY too much for me to be concerned with ahead of punctuation. No disrespect to you, you are 100% correct that is.

Aug 23, 2013 04:20 AM #80
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

David - I agree that you have many things to be concerned with, but can't agree that punctuation isn't something that should top the list.

The only reason for punctuation is clarity of communication. 

There's enough confusion in the world - we shouldn't add to it with fuzzy communication. 

Aug 23, 2013 06:38 AM #81
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