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Following on from my look at collective nouns, I thought I’d blog about that tricky little critter, the apostrophe.

Apostrophe Rules

Many people are confused when it comes to the use of this punctuation mark. By following the guidelines below you can gain an understanding of when and why the use of an apostrophe is applicable. There are two main reasons to use an apostrophe:

To show possession

To show an omission

Using an apostrophe to show possession

An apostrophe can be used to show that a person, a thing or an object belongs or relates to someone or something. For example, an apostrophe can be used to write Tom’s party or last year’s weather, instead of the party of Tom or the weather of last year.

Below are some simple guidelines to explain the use of apostrophes to indicate possession.

The majority of personal names and singular nouns

To indicate possession with personal names and singular nouns you should add an apostrophe followed by the letter ‘s’.

We met at Tom’s barbeque

The elephant’s trunk was long and grey

This morning’s weather was awful.

The use of an apostrophe when a personal name ends with ‘-s’

You should include an apostrophe and the letter ‘s’ with a personal name that ends with ‘-s’ when it would naturally be pronounced with a extra ‘s’ when spoken out loud.

He left to go to James’s party before 7pm.

Thomas’s bus was late, so he would struggle to make it in to work on time.

Chris’s family and friends had organised a surprise party for his birthday.

It should be noted that there are some exceptions to this rule when it involves the name of an organisation or place. Below is an example.

St Thomas’ Hospital

If you are unsure whether to include an apostrophe or how to spell a name, you should look up how the name is spelled in an official place, such as an organisation’s website or directory.

If a personal name ends with the letter ‘s’ but is not naturally spoken with a extra ‘s’, you should not include any extra letters and simply insert an apostrophe after the ‘s’.

Connors’ homework was to be handed in tomorrow morning.

Plural nouns that end with the letter ‘s’

if a plural noun ends with a ‘s’, you should insert an apostrophe after the ‘s’.

The old stately home was converted into a private boys’ school.

He would be flying to South America in under two weeks’ time.

My job was to walk the dog and muck out the pigs’ sty.

Using an apostrophe with plural nouns that do not end with the letter ‘s’

For plural nouns that do not end with a ‘s’, you should include an apostrophe followed by the letter ‘s’.

The family’s pet dog was missing for one week.

Apostrophes should not be applied to signify possession when using a possessive pronoun.

His, hers, ours, yours, theirs

When a possessive determiner is used an apostrophe is also not required.

His, hers, its, our, your, their

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Collective Nouns

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I’ve been getting into that oddity that is collective nouns recently, and thought I’d share this summary with you.

Collective Nouns

Nouns form the names of people, places, animals and things. Collective nouns are a special class of nouns that form the names of groups of people, animals and things. The following are examples of collective nouns.

Collective Nouns for People

The following list contains collective nouns for groups of people. Many collective nouns for people are based on professions, family, nationality and gender.

Acrobats – A troupe of acrobats

Actors – A cast of actors

Athletes – A team of athletes

Comedians – A gaggle of comedians

Hedonists – A debauchery of hedonists

People – A crowd of people

Thieves – a gang of thieves

Experts – a panel of experts

Judges – a panel of judges

Directors – a board of directors

Idiots – a bunch of idiots

Collective Nouns for Animals

Collective nouns for animals in the English language date back hundreds of years. The list bellow contains some modern collective nouns used today and also some of the older terms that are not often used.

Bats – a colony of bats

Bees – a hive of bees

Birds – a flock of birds

Cattle – a herd of cattle

Crows – a murder of crows

Dogs – a pack of dogs

Dolphins – a school of dolphins

Elephants – a herd of elephants

Fish – a shoal of fish

Geese – a gaggle of geese

Gorillas – a band of gorillas

Insects – a swarm of insects

Lions – a pride of lions

Monkeys – a troop of monkeys

Owls – a parliament of owls

Rhinoceroses – a crash of rhinoceroses

Sheep – a flock of sheep

Wolves – a pack of wolves

Collective Nouns for Things

The following is a list of collective nouns for groups of things.

Bananas – a bunch of bananas

Cars – a fleet of cars

Cards – a deck of cards

Drinks – a round of drinks

Ghosts – a fright of ghosts

Mountains – a range of mountains

Notes – a wad of notes

Riches – an embarrassment of riches

Ships – a flotilla of ships

Trees – a forest of trees


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The Colon and Semicolon

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Who invents this stuff in the first place? Eh? Eh? Well someone decided to sit down and create punctuation marks at some point in history, and now we’re all left wondering how to use them.

semicolonI’ve been working on an assignment, and I’ve decided to use more colons and semicolons in my writing to help it look more impressive, and hopefully get better marks. This follows my recent success with a tactic of looking up an obscure word in the dictionary and then fitting it into my writing somehow. Seemed to work last time as my tutor had to ask me what the word meant.

Anyway, the colon and semicolon are my next targets. The colon I’ve used quite a few times before anyway (not like Horizontal Harry), and seems pretty straightforward. Basically, the colon is used to introduce something, like a list, word or the rest of a sentence. Like this:

The best players in Sheffield are: Evans, Lowton and MacDonald.

The semicolon is a much trickier thing. The Semicolon looks like a colon, but with a comma below the full stop rather than another full stop. I’ve stuck a picture of a colon and semicolon to this post. The semicolon is used more for joining two separate sentences. By using the semicolon, you show that they are related. You can also use the semicolon on more complicated lists, so that it reads better.

I watched Sheffield Wednesday; they were terrible.

I’m going to stick to trying out the easier stuff first though. As ever, I turned to the internet to work this out. There is a great website all about the colon and semicolon. It was a bit more readable than the others and less wordy.

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