How often have you see this type of thing? The Smith’s got together with the Johnson’s to discuss the problem’s they had with their kid’s.
It seems to me when God handed out apostrophes, some people must have taken more than their fair share.
Most nouns add an “s” or “es” to indicate more than one. (I’m not going to get into irregular plurals, like woman-women, child-children etc.) It’s very simple, really. The Smiths (more than one Smith) got together with the Johnsons (also more than one Johnson) to discuss the problems (oh dear, more than one problem!) with their kids. (also more than one kid. They must have been fighting again.)
Here’s when you can use apostrophes: to indicate possession or ownership. The kid’s book, mom’s apple pie, Bob Smith’s beard, Jim Johnson’s wife.
What if you have a plural that ends in “s” and you want to show possession? The style varies somewhat here. Some publications simply use the apostrophe after the “s”. The Smiths’ children. Other style guides indicate added an apostrophe and another “s”: The Smiths’s children. To me, this looks very strange and I see the first method used more often.
Then you have “it” and this is an exception to the possessive rule. The ONLY time “it” adds an apostrophe and an “s” is when it’s a contraction of it is.
Here’s another exception: an apostrophe plus “s” can be used to pluralize nouns with strange forms, such as letters, numerals, acronyms or abbreviations. The student earned all a’s is correct. Without the apostrophe it would appear as the word “as.” We can also say, “Mind your p’s and q’s” or “He rolled 7’s and 11’s.” (Normally in fiction you’d spell the numbers out: sevens and elevens, but it is permissible when using numerals to add an apostrophe for a plural.)
Here’s another good blog post that talks about this subject, at Motivated Grammar.
What are some other examples you’ve found?
A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.