We\u2019ve written about\u00a0apostrophes\u00a0before on this blog, but today we want to look specifically at possessive apostrophes. Join us, then, for a quick look at who owns what, including how to handle cases of joint ownership.\nPossessive Apostrophes\nPossessive apostrophes indicate ownership. Typically, this involves adding an apostrophe plus the letter \u201cs\u201d after a noun or someone\u2019s name:\nMorgan\u2019s pencil was sharp.\nThe car\u2019s tire is flat.\nHere, for example, the apostrophes in the sentence above show us that the pencil belongs to Morgan and that the tire belongs to the car.\nPossessive Apostrophes After \u201cS\u201d\nThe\u00a0main variation\u00a0on the rule above occurs when a word already ends in the letter \u201cs.\u201d In this case, you can either:\n\n \tAdd an apostrophe plus another \u201cs\u201d (e.g.,\u00a0Alanis\u2019s\u00a0grasp of irony\u2026)\n \tOr just use the apostrophe by itself (e.g.,\u00a0Alanis\u2019\u00a0grasp of irony\u2026)\n\nBoth are acceptable in modern English. However, if you\u2019re writing an essay, you may want to check your style guide for advice on which approach to use.\nPlurals and Possessive Apostrophes\nPlurals\u00a0that end in \u201cs\u201d sometimes cause confusion when using a possessive apostrophe. The key is that possessive apostrophes should\u00a0always\u00a0go after the final \u201cs\u201d in a plural. If we wanted to talk about two dogs with empty food bowls, for example, the apostrophe placement would be crucial:\nThe dogs\u2019\u00a0bowls are empty.\u00a0\u2713\nThe dog\u2019s\u00a0bowls are empty.\u00a0\u2717\nThe first sentence above matches our intention, since it suggests multiple dogs and multiple bowls. But the second implies one dog with more than one bowl. And while this second sentence not ungrammatical, it would still be an\u00a0error\u00a0if we were trying to discuss the bowls of more than one dog.\nSeparate or Joint Ownership?\nFiguring out where to put possessive apostrophes when two or more people own one thing can be tricky. Ultimately, it comes down to whether you\u2019re talking about separate or joint ownership:\n\n \tWhen two or more people separately own the same type of thing, you should add an apostrophe after each person's name.\n \tIf two or more people jointly own something, you should treat them as a single "subject" and you only need one apostrophe.\n\nFor example, if two people both had a stamp collection, we might say:\nTim\u2019s and Rachel\u2019s\u00a0stamp collections are very valuable.\nHere, we use an apostrophe for both Tim and Rachel because we\u2019re talking about two people with two separate stamp collections. This is also why we use the plural noun \u201ccollections\u201d and plural verb \u201care.\u201d But let\u2019s imagine that Tim and Rachel share a stamp collection instead:\nTim and Rachel\u2019s stamp collection is very valuable.\nIn this case, we only use one apostrophe because \u201cTim and Rachel\u201d are a single unit known as a\u00a0compound subject. This is also reflected in the singular noun \u201ccollection\u201d and the singular verb \u201cis,\u201d so we can immediately see that this sentence is about a shared collection (or joint ownership).\n\nThis distinction can be harder to spot when dealing with a mass noun:\nBob\u2019s and Beryl\u2019s luggage was lost in transit.\nBob and Beryl\u2019s luggage was lost in transit.\nIn the first sentence, Bob and Beryl have each lost their own luggage. In the second, Bob and Beryl have lost their shared luggage. And since \u201cluggage\u201d is always singular, we only have the apostrophes to tell us who owns what. In cases like this, then, correct apostrophe use is crucial!\n\nWhen in doubt, though, you can always ask a proofreader. And with a little professional help, you can be confident your punctuation is correct.