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Punctuation Pointers: Apostrophes and Quotation Marks


Apostrophes can be used with nouns and pronouns to show possession.

  • Steven’s
  • Mavis’s
  • The Smiths’
  • women’s
  • bosses’

Apostrophes can also be used to show contraction (omission).

  • can’t (for cannot)
  • it’s (for it is)

An apostrophe should not be inserted into the possessive pronoun its. To determine whether to use it’s or its, ask yourself if you can substitute the words it is without changing the meaning. If not, do not use an apostrophe.

  • I hope it’s finally over. (I hope it is finally over.)
  • Stella gave the play its name. (Stella gave the play it is name.)

The plurals of letter names and symbols are formed with apostrophes, but the plurals of acronyms and years usually are not.

  • b’s
  • ¶’s
  • ®’s
  • CEOs
  • RDAs
  • 1960s


Quotation Marks

In American English, periods are placed inside the quotation marks (i.e., before the closing quotation marks), except when a parenthetical reference immediately follows the quotation.

  • The boy in the back whispered, “That’s the way it started before.”
  • “Children are not capable of such deception” (Mason, p. 24).

Question marks and exclamation marks are placed before the end quotation marks if they are part of the quotation and after the end quotation marks if they relate to the sentence as a whole.

  • The captain shouted, “Jarred, the rope is about to break!”
  • Did he really say, “I hope they all fall down”?

Colons and semicolons are placed after the end quotation marks.

  • She said she wouldn’t “fail or falter”; she may have been overly confident.

Quotations within quotations are marked with single quotation marks.

  • Chan declared, “Thai’s ‘modern world paradigm’ is a mirage!”

Single quotation marks are also used to indicate common expressions (where the words so called could logically be inserted).

  • Their ‘claim to fame’ was their unique approach to the problem.

Click on the links below for more writing tips:

Critical Thinking

Sentence Structure & Punctuation

Punctuation Pointers: Colons & Semicolons

Writing Tips