Four easy rules that will make you an apostrophe expert

Apostroph oder kein Apostroph – das ist eine schwierige Frage mit mehreren möglichen Antworten. Diese vier Secretary Today-Regeln helfen Ihnen, den Apostroph sicher und richtig zu setzen. Kennen Sie eigentlich schon Secretary Today - Professionelles Business English für Sekretärinnen und Assistentinnen? Noch nicht? Dann testen Sie doch jetzt diese Ausgabe kostenlos ...

Putting apostrophes where they shouldn’t be, or leaving them out where they should, is one of the most common mistakes native and non-native English speakers alike make. But even though it’s a common mistake, it’s still a mistake. And it’s a mistake that you, as a professional secretary or personal assistant, shouldn’t be making! Here are four easy rules to show you exactly how to decide when and where to use an apostrophe.

1 To indicate that a letter or word is missing

You are
You're very early.
I will not
I won't
I won't be here tomorrow.
It is
It's time to go home.
It would
It'd be nice to see you.

2 To indicate that a figure is missing in a date

It was the summer of ’68.

3 To indicate the genitive or possessive case

Note that irregular plural nouns (women, men, children and so on) are treated the same as singular nouns.

4 To indicate the plural of abbreviations and letters

This is described in the table below. Be careful here because there are differences between British and American English.

The assistant's office is on the left.
(one assistant in one office)
The assistants' office is on the left.
(2 or more assistants in one office) 
My boss's office is small.
(one boss, one office)
My bosses' offices are large.
(2 or more bosses, 2 or more offices) 
The woman's children came to see me.
(one woman, 2 or more children)
The women's children came to see me.
(2 or more women, 2 or more children) 

Is it "do’s and don’t’s" or "dos and don’ts"?

As you know, there is no equivalent to the "Duden" for English, and the experts can’t agree on this one. Some say it’s do’s and don’t’s others argue that it’s dos and don’ts. Strictly speaking, "don’t’s" is correct. But it doesn’t look good with those two apostrophes. So we at Secretary Today use the other version, dos and don’ts, and we advise you to use it, too.