Hopkins advises on the use of apostrophes – one of the more hazardous areas of
can be little doubt that the apostrophe – which Kingsley Amis called "this
vexing little mark"- is responsible for causing the most pain, anguish and
suffering among writers. So many people get it wrong that given time and the
unrelenting dynamism of the English language it may well pass out of use all
But until that time we have to put up with
those smug amateur linguist types, who, understanding the roles of the
apostrophe, tut-tut at the English of those less towering than themselves. And
yet the rules are quite straightforward. Here’s a guide.
If the noun is singular, add
‘s: the resident’s room, the council’s policy. If it’s plural ending in s, just
add an apostrophe: the residents’ lounge (the lounge belonging to more than one
resident); carers’ comments. If it’s plural not ending in s, add ‘s: children’s
home; women’s group; people’s well-being.
Names give us a few problems. For names
ending in s it may be best to be consistent and use ‘s: Graham Hopkins’s
advice; Charles’s office. Other names are a question of just knowing: it’s
Marks and Spencer’s but Harrods; Lord’s cricket ground but Earls Court; Guy
Fawkes Day, but St Valentine’s Day and April Fools’ Day.
Where there is more than one name, it is more
relaxed to use the apostrophe with the last name only: "this was the
director, service manager and team manager’s decision."
It’s correct to say
"the council’s policy". However, if we use the pronoun "it"
for "council", it would seem logical to refer to "it’s
policy". Er, no. Wherever you see "it’s" it will always mean
either "it has" or "it is". For this reason the correct
possessive form does without the apostrophe: its policy; the decision is
theirs, yours, hers, ours.
As touched on above, the
apostrophe is used to indicate that something is missing: can’t (cannot),
you’ve (you have). However, the person who writes ‘bus for omnibus is being
somewhat old fashioned.
Some old school types tend
to use the apostrophe for the plural of abbreviations: MP’s; GP’s; 1990’s. But
in today’s fast lane there isn’t any need: MPs, GPs and 1990s are fine.
While carrying out a review of occupational therapy services in a south London
borough, I telephoned clients to ask them if they would like to give their
views on the occupational therapy service. One elderly woman said: "No,
thank you, dear, I’m a pensioner and much too old to go to work."
to Judy Wurr, an independent social care consultant.
"Reablement is defined as follows: ‘The restoration of optimal levels
of physical, psychological and social ability within the needs and desires of
the individual and his/her family. It requires the expertise of a number of
disciplines within a comprehensive and integrated service, which must span agency
in A Strategy for Reablement Services in Staffordshire 2000-2003.
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