ApostropheI am happy to admit that I am occasionally confused by apostrophes, something I attribute to spending my formative years at schools where calligraphy with the headteacher was sometimes more important than grammar.

Anyway, now that I’m all grown up and like to see writing that is grammatically correct, I’ve been working hard to make sure I always put the apostrophe in the right place. Apostrophes have two uses, and one of them I am fine with: showing the omission of letters (e.g. “it’s”/”it is”). It’s the other that I, and probably most others, stumble over.

The other use of the apostrophe is to show possession (“the girl’s pen”). The most useful (although a little childlike!) way I have found for remembering the correct grammar is thinking of the tail of the apostrophe pointing to whoever has ownership. So:

The pen of the girl = the girl’s pen. There is only one girl, so the apostrophe is pointing to the word ‘girl’.
The pen of the girls (more than one girl) = the girls’ pen. There is more than one girl, so the apostrophe is pointing to the plural of girl, ‘girls’.

Try testing your apostrophe knowledge here.