Using apostrophes in AP Style

On Sunday morning, you open up your local newspaper and there — on the front cover — the headline reads: “A womans right to choose.” When scrolling on social media, you see a post from a friend about a weekend event at “Lino Lakes’s” community center. On a billboard on the side of a highway, in stark typeface, an advertisement asks: “Whose ready?”

If these three examples made you twitch, you’re not alone. Among the most common stumbles in English grammar are incorrect apostrophe usage. While some of these rules may seem second nature, getting into the nitty-gritty of apostrophe rules reveals a laundry list of differences for everything from possessive proper nouns to plurals that already end in the letter “s.”

For a quick refresh, PR Daily has a breakdown of the most common apostrophe rules in AP Style.

  • Omitted letters and numbers
    • Use an apostrophe where letters or numbers have been dropped.
      • Is not –> isn’t
      • The fall of ‘84
  • Single letter plurals
    • To make one letter plural, add an apostrophe and an “s.”
      • Straight A’s
    • To make a number plural, just add an “s.”
      • Somewhere in the 30s
  • Quotes within quotes
    • When quoting someone who is quoting someone, use a single quote (or apostrophe) within quotation marks.
      • “In the words of the author Mark Twain: ‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started.’”
  • Possessives
    • For words that do not end in “s,” add an apostrophe and an “s.”
      • Ballerina’s toes
      • Group’s work
    • For joint phrases, only the second noun gets the possessive.
      • The ballerina and the group’s work
    • For proper nouns that end in “s,” add an apostrophe to make it possessive.
      • Alexis’ poem
      • The Royals’ stadium
    • For common (non-capitalized) nouns that end in “s,” add an apostrophe and an “s.”
      • Pants’s leg
      • Scissors’s handle
    • There are exceptions for specific phrases or aphorisms — but only specific phrases.
      • For appearance’ sake
      • For goodness’ sake