Apostrophes and how to use them correctly

For some reason, there seems to be a prevailing desire to use apostrophes to indicate a plural form of words.  There are very few times this is accurate, the most significant one being making letters of the alphabet plural.  Of course, this is logical since there is a large difference between a’s and as or i’s and is, lol.

Generally, an ‘s indicates possessive, as in “the dog’s ball” (which, of course leads to the conundrum of how to make “dogs” possessive, i.e. the two dogs’ ball).

Apostrophes are also used for contractions, to represent missing letters, as in can’t (where the ‘ indicates the missing “no” in can not/cannot) or isn’t (‘ indicating the missing space and “o”).


(Then there is the whole single quote vs double quote issue but that’s an entirely different subject!)



The dreaded head-hopping

A frequent problem is the tendency to change points of view (POVs) within a  scene.  Ideally, there should be one point of view per chapter. If that is not possible, then there should be a significant amount of action told from one character’s viewpoint before the reader is switched to another character’s perspective.  If we know what one character is feeling/experiencing/seeing then we can only surmise the other characters’ points of view from their actions or their dialogue.  This is where the ability to ‘show not tell’ becomes particularly important to allow the action to flow smoothly.

e.g.  Character A comes home and is exhausted and suffering from a headache, Character B is anxiously awaiting the arrival of A because they are supposed to be going out to dinner.

A knew that there was no way he was going to be able to tolerate a noisy restaurant tonight and dreaded the coming confrontation.  B saw A walk through the door and thought, “here we go again, another excuse for why we can’t go out”.  (2 different viewpoints)


A dragged through the door, squinting and rubbing his temples.  He immediately walked to the radio and turned it off.

“Hey, why did you do that?”  B just knew that her plans for a fun evening were going to be ruined again.


There are many sites that elucidate this principle far better than I could ever do so, here are a few places to start:




Common errors

There are certain phrases that are commonly misspelled or misused.  A brief list includes:

Your (possessive) vs. You’re (contraction of you are)

To (direction or part of infinitive verb) vs. Too (also)

Complement (something that adds to or completes) vs. Compliment (admiring comment)

Mantel (on a fireplace) vs. Mantle (cloak)

Aureole (halo) vs. Areola (area on nipple)  (NB:  plural of areola is areolae or areolas)

Timber (wood) vs. Timbre (quality of sound–as in voice)

Fiance (male) vs. Fiancee (female)

Blond (male or female) vs. Blonde (female only)

Tenant (occupant) vs Tenet (doctrine)

Adrenalin (brand name) vs Adrenaline (hormone)

Carpal tunnel (not carpel) is a condition of the wrist that causes entrapment of the median nerve

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