Don't Let Errors Ruin Your Submissions Pt 4, Apostrophes

Welcome to the 4th post of Don't Let Errors Ruin Your Submissions!

You might think your manuscript's fascinating story potential should rise above any typos and poor grammar, but the truth is agents and publishers receive an onslaught of submissions. They give most of these submissions a few seconds before deciding whether to pass or keep reading. That means any red flags can prompt a rejection.

Poor grammar can be a red flag!

I say "can" because there will always be the exception to the rule. Counting on being the exception to the rule is NOT a good idea. You need to clean up your submission.

Don't let errors ruin your submission's chances!

We've been going through the 11 most beneficial grammar rules for you to use in your writing, and today we're going to look at rule #5 regarding using the apostrophe to create a possessive noun.

  • To indicate possession, end a singular noun with an apostrophe followed by an "s." Otherwise, the noun's form seems plural.
Let's take a moment to define the terms:
  • Possession: noun showing ownership
  • Singular noun: noun referring to one item such as a dog or car
  • Plural noun: noun referring to more than one such as dogs or cars
  • Apostrophe: punctuation that looks like a comma but hovers near the top of the line of text instead of at the bottom and indicates possession

As simple as this rule sounds, many people make mistakes when punctuating possessive nouns, especially when the noun is plural.

Plural, Not Possessive

If the noun is plural and NOT possessive, use an “s” or “es.”

  • Dogs (more than one)
  • Cars (more than one)
  • Rooms (more than one)
  • Princesses (more than one)
Example: The dogs are going for a walk. (more than one dog)

Singular Noun, Possessive

If the noun is possessive, use an apostrophe followed by an “s.”
  • Dog’s (belongs to the dog)
  • Car’s (belongs to or is part of the car)
  • Room’s (belongs to or is part of the room)
Example: The dog's leash is broken. (one leash belonging to one dog)

Plural, Possessive Noun

When the noun is plural and possessive, place the apostrophe after the "s."
  • Dogs’
  • Cars'
  • Rooms'
This indicates something belongs to multiple dogs, cars, or rooms.

Example: The dogs' leashes are in the laundry room. (mulitple dogs with leashes)

Single Possessive Nouns Ending in "S"

If the word is not plural and already ends in an “s” (princess), either of these option works to indicate a possessive noun:

  • Princess’s
  • Princess’
Example: The Princess' throne sat on the dais looking over the crowd. (one princess with one throne)

When working with words that end in “s,” the key is to be consistent with how you choose to indicate the possessive form. Be aware, an editor might opt for the other method. If you're consistent in your application, they should recognize that you knew what you were doing.


When using pronouns, typically the pronoun has a possessive form and doesn't require the apostrophe:
  • yours
  • its
  • her
  • hers
  • his
  • their
  • theirs
  • my
  • mine

Next week is a BIG one: punctuating dialogue. I've seen a LOT of mistakes regarding this rule over the years. If you have questions, please leave them in the comments.

If you've missed the first three posts in this series, never fear!

Part 1: an overview of the top 11 grammar rules to follow

Part 2a look at compound sentences and punctuation

Part 3: an exploration of proper comma usage


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