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Apostrophe Anarchy I: Do you want fry’s or fries with that?

The idea for this post came while I was at the DMV with my 16-year-old daughter. (Yep, another driver in the family!) While waiting, I noticed their list of fees; only they had spelled it “fee’s.” Naturally, I looked for fee’s what? Fee’s changes? Fee’s price increase? But, no, on the opposite column, the exact same list appeared, this time under the heading “Fees.” Sadly, the DMV’s sign designer doesn’t understand when to use and when not to use an apostrophe.

I would hate for an error of this kind on your part to cause you embarrassment. So, let me give you a quick set of guidelines:

  • When you refer to multiples of an item (plural), just use an s. If your word ends in y, change the y to i and add es. This includes proper nouns, too.

Examples: letter to letters; country to countries; fee to fees; Tom to Toms; Jones to Joneses

  • When you mean to show possession, use ’s. This word will always be followed by a noun.

Examples: the letter’s format; the country’s rule (for one country) or the countries’ rule (when referring to more than one country); the fee’s distribution; Tom’s account; Mr. Jones’s house (one Jones who lives there) or the Joneses’ house (two or more Joneses who live there)

Following these guidelines should prevent the unintentional use of an apostrophe in nouns. (In another post I’ll cover contractions or possessive pronouns which frequently contain apostrophe errors of their own.)

Of course, if you’re ever not sure what to do, you could always give call me or email me. I’d be happy to edit any document you need help with.

By the way, the answer to the title’s question is “Do you want fries with that?”

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