Apopoleptic over Apostrophes

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Elizabeth asks:

Are the apostrophes in this sentence in the correct places?
Is the Distributors’ discount available for University’s.

No there should be no apostrophe on “universities.” It is a simple plural. The first apostrophe is debatable. One could consider the discount is for each distributor, in which case the apostrophe should come before the “s”. If the discount is generally for all distributors, then the apostrophe is correct.

Here’s a brief synopsis on the use of apostrophes:

An apostrophe is used in two ways.

First it is used to indicate missing letters such as in a contraction, where two words have been joined together and some letters have been eliminated. Examples include:

Don’t = do not
Can’t = can not
I’d = I would
It’s = it is.

The second way an apostrophe is used is to indicate possession.

So Ronnie owns a house; it is Ronnie’s house.

Because apostrophe-s indicates possession and s alone indicates plural, we often get confused when something belongs to more than one person (plural possessive.) In this case, we put the apostrophe after the s. Examples include:

The carpenters’ union
The dogs’ owner (where many dogs have the same owner)

Other problems occur when the name of a person ends in s. In many cases we add apostrophe and s to indicate possession, but if it is difficult to pronounce, we might just use the apostrophe. Companies often use apostrophe in their names that vary from the normal rules of grammar.

And what about “its” indicating something that “it” possesses. Shouldn’t that be written with an apostrophe? You’d think so, but ‘it’ is a pronoun, so follows the rules for pronouns: his, hers and its do not use apostrophes. It’s easy to remember ‘his’ uses no apostrophe, you can occasionally see the error where someone puts an apostrophe in hers (her’s) but it is widespread to see the error of writing it’s when the possessive pronoun its should be used.

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