Another quick tutorial on apostrophes…

iStock_000018482964XSmallThis especially quick tutorial is to clarify a single apostrophe usage that often confuses writers.

In manuscripts—and even in print—I frequently see the following:

Let’s go to the Molloy’s house.

Grammatically, this means:

Let’s go to the house of the Molloy.

Now, perhaps there is a big burly guy out there who is referred to as ‘the Molloy’, as in ‘Give that burrito to the Molloy before he chews someone’s arm.’ In that case, the above would be correct. But what the writer usually means is:

Let’s go to the Molloys’ house.


Let’s go to the house of the Molloys. [a couple, or a family, or the three banjo-playing Molloy sisters]

If, on the other hand, the writer is referring to a particular Molloy:

Let’s go to the house of Molloy. [e.g. Joe Molloy]

then it would be:

Let’s go to Molloy’s house. [singular Molloy; no definite article]

Again, it comes down to singular versus plural: one Molloy or a bunch of them!


Filed under Tips for writers

14 responses to “Another quick tutorial on apostrophes…

  1. Reblogged this on Desolie: thoughts about editing, writing and words and commented:
    So beautifully explained by Amanda Curtin, this tutorial will help you on your quest for clear, sharp writing.

  2. Thanks for these quick tutorials—they’re so helpful and clear. Please, please keep them coming!

  3. marlish glorie

    Many thanks for these invaluable tutorials, Amanda. Should you ever find yourself twiddling your thumbs looking for something to do and provided you’re inclined— I’d love to attend any tutorial workshops you ‘d like to hold. Mattie house? I’m sure you’d get a house full of devotees of fine grammar. I’d be happy to organise it. But maybe down the track, when you find yourself cleaning your kitchen cupboards… 🙂

    • Oh my, Marlish, the concept of looking for things to do instead of constantly being found by things to be done! But thanks, and I’m happy you’re getting something out of these 🙂

  4. Ursula

    This wonderful tutorial comes at a time when I’m trying to decide whether the following requires an apostrophe, ….is available at our Nedlands rooms, and if so where should it go, after the s? I does look neater without it, but is it correct?

  5. Tony Harris

    Apostrophe catastrophe
    how can i keep them straight
    whenever i sit down to write
    they go straight out the gate
    With your and you’re I’m never sure
    And it’s such a crime
    To know when using it’s or its
    Takes up so much time…
    So from Amanda help is near
    to make it all so clear
    Ownership and plurals show
    the place to make it so…
    But abbreviations still get out
    and have a rampant go…

  6. Davina Prisgrove

    On a laminated placard in front of me at the hairdresser’s today: Did you know that we now have a beautician in the shop who can do your fingernail’s while your having your hair done. When I pointed out that there were two errors, the hairdresser attending to me couldn’t find any.

    • Hi Davina. It’s everywhere, isn’t it. But I guess that’s no surprise when you consider how little attention grammar has been given in the school curriculum. Things are said to be changing—I hope so. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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