My last post on common grammatical errors was so popular that I decided to take some “You're going to be in big trouble if you keep bringing doughnuts to every meeting.” . I regularly write about management, technology.
If there’s one place at work you can get stuck in a grammar rut, it’s while writing meeting minutes. Our editorial team had fun making these quizzes to test your meeting minutes grammar skillset, and you should too.
This is a little test every one should take. Or is it everyone? A number of troublesome words can be written as one or two words. See if you can choose the correct form in these sentences:
1. I would like to visit your city sometime / some time.
2. Do you have sometime / some time to give me a tour of your office?
3. Anyone / Any one could have taken that laptop.
4. Anyone / Any one of the team members could have taken that laptop.
5. Everyone / Every one of the committee members is qualified.
6. Everyone / Every one is interested in attending the seminar.
7. I try to get some exercise everyday / every day.
8. Exercise is a part of my everyday / every day routine.
9. You can submit your payment in any way / anyway that is convenient.
10. I’m glad the meeting was canceled: I didn’t want to go any way / anyway.
11. We are already / all ready to hear your presentation.
12. We have already / all ready heard about your presentation.
1 . Sometime
2. Some time
4. Any one
5. Every one
7. Every day
9. Any way
11. All ready
In written work, it’s easy to slip up and leave out an apostrophe, especially when we are writing in a hurry.
Unfortunately, spellcheckers don’t catch every little mistake. Until someone invents a foolproof spellchecker, we need to rely on our own skills at using apostrophes.
Brush up on your skills by taking this quiz. Then check your answers at the end.
1. The committee has made its decision about the software.
2. I have 10 years experience as an executive assistant.
3. Our shrinking market share is our Achilles heel.
4. The managers disagreement has delayed this project by at least a month.
5. Many bosses believe that a good salary is all that employees need to be satisfied with their work.
6. The mens change room on the second floor will be closed for renovations.
7. The childrens picnic has been canceled.
8. She resigned her position with only two week’s notice.
2. I have 10 years’ experience as an executive assistant.
3. Our shrinking market share is our Achilles’ heel.
4. The managers’ disagreement has delayed this project by at least a month.
6. The men’s change room on the second floor will be closed for renovations.
7. The children’s picnic has been canceled.
8. She resigned her position with only two weeks’ notice.
1. Conformity and deviance exist alongside in any social institution.
2. C is for tasks you would like to do, but are not essential.
3. Post them somewhere you can see them.
4. Lettuceless salads keep several days in the refrigerator, so you can pull it out when you need it.
5. What does that protend for us?
6. The very prospect of his being a murderer horrifies us all.
1. Conformity and deviance exist side by side in any social situation. (Alongside is a preposition that is usually followed by of. Something is alongside of something else.)
2. C is for tasks you would like to do, but that are not essential. (That is a pronoun that functions as a substitute for tasks, which is the subject of “are not essential.”)
3. Post them where you can see them. (Somewhere is an unspecified place. This sentence describes a particular place.)
4. Lettuceless salads keep several days in the refrigerator, so you can pull them out when you need them. (Salads is plural, so you need a plural pronoun.)
5. What does that portend for us? (Always check your spelling.)
6. The very possibility of his being a murderer horrifies us all. (Prospect refers to the future. If the murder has already occurred, the prospect is long gone.)
inspection and there is a managers' meeting this afternoon as a preliminary in parsing should not be required from 4th Standard children studying grammar.
Last month, we had an article on the Quick and Dirty Tips website with the title 10 Facts You Should Know About Homeowners Insurance. What you didn't hear was that behind the scenes, the editor debated whether to put an apostrophe in the word homeowners.
This topic also comes up in the news when there's a writers strike or teachers strike. Does the strike belong to the writers or teachers, or are the words writers and teachers adjectives that tell people what kind of strike is happening? If the words are possessive, we need an apostrophe, but if they're adjectives, we don't need an apostrophe.
Read more about why the possessive case indicates more than just simple possession in English, and what Robert Lowth has to do with it.
It's a lot easier to see the difference when you're dealing with singular words. For example, if you're talking about green bean casserole, green is an adjective that tells people what kind of beans you use. But if Mr. Green has an award-winning bean at the state fair, you'd talk about Green's bean, with an apostrophe.
When the phrase includes a plural, as with teachers strike, it can be a tougher call. I believe it's pretty clear that the teachers don't own the strike, and that the word teachers is there to tell us more about what kind of strike it is.
The Associate Press recommends writing teachers strike without the apostrophe and it makes the same recommendation about the phrase homeowners association, so I follow that pattern for homeowners insurance too, which is what the editor of our article also decided.
An important point is that if you use an apostrophe, make sure you put it after the final S. If you call it a homeowner's association or a teacher’s strike (with the apostrophe before the S), you're talking about an association of one homeowner or a strike by one teacher.
Here’s an even trickier one: farmers market. The market is used by the farmers, populated by the farmers, but generally not owned by the farmers. So it seems reasonable to conclude that you don't use an apostrophe because the word farmers is there to identify the type of market. It's acting like an adjective.
Again, AP style is farmers market without an apostrophe. The AP typically recommend leaving out the apostrophe whenever the phrase is descriptive rather than showing possession.
I should note that other credible people firmly believe an apostrophe is required on farmers market, teachers strike and similar phrases. For example, the Chicago Manual of Style specifically calls for an apostrophe after the S in farmers market. It’s a contentious topic, and you may have to defend your choice to someone no matter which choice you make.
Cases like this are a good reason to have a designated style guide. Are you an AP woman? Write farmers market without the apostrophe. Are you more of a Chicago man? Write farmers’ market with the apostrophe.
In some sentences though, you can’t just default to the style guide standard when you see these common phrases because even though I just told you not to put the apostrophe before the S, occasionally you do want it before the S because you are talking about one person.
Here’s an example. It’s fine to write this without the apostrophe:
We now offer homeowners insurance. (Homeowners is descriptive, so it doesn’t need an apostrophe.)
But if you work in an insurance office and you’re writing an e-mail to ask whether one specific policy got sent, you want an apostrophe before the S:
Did you mail the homeowner's insurance policy? (You write that with an apostrophe before the S in homeowner’s because you’re talking about one policy that belongs to one homeowner. It’s singular and possessive.)
It would be the same thing if there was a man named Farmer who owned a market, and you were writing Do you want to go to Farmer’s market today? Just like when we were talking about Mr. Green’s beans, you’d want the apostrophe before the final S because you’re talking about Mr. Farmer’s market.
The bottom line is that with these kinds of phrases, it’s good to know what your style guide recommends, but you still need to keep an eye out to know when you’re dealing with a descriptive plural and when you’re dealing with a singular possessive.
Farmers’ market image, NatalieMaynor at Flickr. CC BY 2.0
An earlier version of this article was originally published January 18, 2008.
The single most important element in fluid writing is the use of effective transitions between sentences and paragraphs. And no transition is more effective than the plain single-syllable words and and but.
The notion that it’s ungrammatical to start a sentence with a conjunction has long been ignored by the best writers and debunked by reputable grammarians. Look at the op-ed page of any major newspaper or scan through some pages of any well-edited magazine and you’ll see plenty of examples. Why? Because conjunctions are excellent transition tools, signaling how the sentence to follow fits in with what came before—and because they’re short, sharp, and fleet. And and but are usually more effective than clunky conjunctive adverbs such as additionally and however, which add syllables and demand a comma after them.
The “rule” that you should not end a sentence with a preposition is a misbegotten notion based on Latin syntax and expounded by a few (a very few) 19th-century writers. Grammarians have long since dismissed it as ill-founded and unnecessary. Often a sentence that ends with a preposition sounds far more natural than the same sentence forced into avoiding the terminal preposition. Consider: What will the new product be used for? versus For what purpose will the new product be used?
That said, a strong sentence should end forcefully because the end of a sentence is the most emphatic position. A preposition is rarely a powerful sentence-ender, but it is not an ungrammatical one.
When describing performance, manner, action, and the like, use the adverb well <The intern works well under pressure> <The research and development stage is going well> <We wish them well in the future>. Though becoming more widespread, the adverbial use of good is nonstandard English <The vice presidents *worked good as a team> <The new water pump *is running good>. The question whether to use good or well frequently arises when someone asks “How are you doing?” The best answer—assuming a positive response— is “I’m doing well” (or “I’m fine, thank you”). Saying “I’m good” is common but unrefined. The response “I’m *doing good” is substandard because good is there being used as an adverb. An exception to the rule against using good as an adverb applies with certain set phrases <a good many more> <did it but good>.
A subject and its verb must both be either singular or plural. Grammar Girl says so. (Grammar Girl and says are both singular.) All grammarians say so. (Grammarians and say are both plural.) The rule seems so elementary as to be trivial. But a lot can go wrong. A prepositional phrase modifying the subject is a common source of trouble: Should be an oversupply of foreign imports take a singular or plural verb? The answer is singular, to match the subject oversupply. Although compound subjects generally take plural verbs, sometimes a subject really expresses a single (and singular) idea <The company’s bread and butter is still shipping>. The subject, bread and butter, is plural in form but singular in sense, so it takes the singular verb is.
There (in its use as a subject stand-in, as in There is another way) presents a special problem, one that some authorities call the most common grammatical error today. In inverted sentences, the true subject follows the verb <There go our fourth-quarter profits>. The subject profits is after the verb go. Yet people seem to want singular verbs with there regardless of what follows, and errors result <*There is still market capacity and established competition to be considered>. The compound subject capacity and competition should take the plural verb are, not the singular verb is.
Illusory compounds can also cause trouble. These occur with constructions such as together with, as well as, and the like, none of which forms a plural. <The board, along with the president and CFO, endorses the stock split>. The subject is the singular board, which takes the singular verb endorses.
Beware of distractions caused by prepositional phrases containing plural objects: The subject—either or neither—is still singular <Either of the marketing plans involves [not involve] capital investment> <Neither of our expansion options provides [not provide] a total solution>.
When the correlative conjunctions either/or or neither/nor frame alternatives in the singular, the verb is singular <Either phone or fax is acceptable for your response>. When the alternatives are plural, the verb is plural <Neither our accountants nor our lawyers are concerned about the merger>. But when one element is singular and the other is plural, match the verb to the second element <Neither the regional managers nor the vice-president for sales likes [not like] the proposed campaign’s theme> <Either the home office or the branch managers are [not is] largely responsible for employee morale>.
Most adverbs are formed by adding the -ly suffix to adjectives (large makes largely, quick makes quickly) or changing the -able suffix to -ably (amicable makes amicably, capable makes capably). But the English language also contains a fair number of adverbs that do not end in -ly (such as fast, ill, and seldom). With these, it is unnecessary—and unidiomatic—to add the suffix -ly. The two most common examples are *doubtlessly and *thusly.
An independent clause (1) contains a subject and a verb and (2) expresses a complete thought. It can stand alone as a sentence, or it can be connected with another clause by a comma and a conjunction (such as and, but, or) <The new advertising campaign is ready, but the CEO has yet to approve it>. When two independent clauses are joined with a conjunctive adverb like however, a semicolon must go in front of the connector and a comma after <Mr. Bingham can’t attend the meeting; however, he hopes to call before we adjourn>. Omitting the semicolon or replacing it with a comma creates what is known as a “comma splice” <*We were supposed to arrive at 4:00 p.m., however, we didn’t arrive until 5:00>.
Writing authorities have long agreed that midphrase is the strongest and most natural place for an adverb <Industry experts have long agreed on the product’s effectiveness>. The alternatives are awkward <Industry experts long have agreed on the product’s effectiveness> or nonsensical <Industry experts have agreed long on the product’s effectiveness>. Resistance to this guidance may be due to the old superstition that it’s ungrammatical to split an infinitive (it isn’t), since that is one type of split verb <We expect the new product line and expanded territory to almost double our sales in the next two years>.
When the phrase has more than one auxiliary verb, the most natural placement is usually after the first one (as in has long been assumed).
A relative pronoun (that, which, who, whom, and various forms with the –ever suffix) serves one of two purposes. First, it can link a dependent clause to an independent one <Whoever wants to participate is welcome>. The dependent clause (whoever wants to participate) serves as the subject of the main clause. Second, it can join a clause with its antecedent <Those who want to participate are welcome>. Here, the dependent clause (who want to participate) adds crucial information about its antecedent, those.
The second type of relative pronoun should be close to its antecedent—preferably immediately after it. The link must be clear because trouble can occur when the reference becomes uncertain <*Please discuss the customerservice position in the accounting department that is being eliminated>. Which is being eliminated, the position or the department? Restating the sentence clarifies it <Please discuss the customer-service position that is being eliminated in the accounting department>. The relative pronoun that immediately follows its antecedent, customer-service position.
An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that follows another noun (or pronoun) and identifies or depicts it more fully <My colleague Pat agrees> <The customer, a tall man in an oversized suit, left his keys on the counter>.
In the first example, the appositive Pat is not set off by commas from the rest of the sentence. In the second, a tall man in an oversized suit is set off. The reason is that appositives, like relative clauses (those introduced by which, who, and whom), may or may not be essential to the meaning of the sentence. Pat, in the first sentence, is essential—it specifies which colleague (presumably out of several) is being referred to. In the second sentence, the appositive merely adds description. We could also say that Pat, in the first sentence, defines or restricts its referent, colleague, while the appositive in the second sense is indefinite or nonrestrictive. Current stylebooks use the terms restrictive and nonrestrictive to label these qualities.
Appositives may also be set off by em-dashes (typically for emphasis) or parentheses (typically for deemphasis) instead of commas.
Correlative conjunctions (such as both . . . and, neither . . . nor, and not only . . . but also) work in pairs, joining related constructions that match in syntax. Each conjunction should immediately precede the part of speech it describes. Parallelism is rarely a problem with simple nouns <neither time nor money>, but it becomes tricky with phrases and clauses, as in the erroneous phrasing *We not only raised our regional market share but also our profit margin, which should read: We raised not only our regional market share but also our profit margin. The verb raised must be outside the first correlative conjunction (not only) to apply to both possessive phrases (our regional market share and our profit margin).
Excerpted from the HBR Guide to Better Business Writing by Bryan A. Garner.
You may also like:
A Dozen Punctuation Rules You Absolutely Need to Know
5 Common Writing Mistakes
A Quick Guide to Avoiding Common Writing Errors
How to Improve Your Business Writing
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If your application contains grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors, they will in s, add an apostrophe at the end: the ladies' team; the managers' meeting.
Apostrophes are primarily used to show possession, though they have a number of other common uses, as well.
The primary use of the apostrophe is to indicate the possessive case.
To form a possessive with a singular noun, use an apostrophe followed by an s.
My aunt’s home is in Montana.
Our supervisor’s name is Joshua.
This is generally true even if the word itself ends with an s. Still add an apostrophe and s.
Have you seen Marcus’s report?
We reviewed James’s work yesterday.
On the other hand, some writers prefer to omit the s after the apostrophe whenever a word already ends in s or z. Though this guideline is easy to follow, it does not follow the norms of pronunciation, and it can therefore seem unnatural.
Last night we had dinner at Mr. Lewis’ home.
He loves to read about Jesus’ miracles.
Have you read Mr. Chavez’ report?
To create plural possessive nouns when the words end with an s, add just an apostrophe. Never add an apostrophe and an s to a plural noun that already ends in s.
The managers’s meeting will be tomorrow.
The board members’s recommendations were well received.
The managers’ meeting will be tomorrow.
The board members’ recommendations were well received.
For plural nouns that do not end with an s, add an apostrophe followed by an s. Do not write the apostrophe after the s.
Your childrens’ song was beautiful.
The gentlemens’ suggestions were outrageous.
Your children’s song was beautiful.
The gentlemen’s suggestions were outrageous.
For a more thorough discussion of possessives, see the article entitled “Possessive Nouns and Indefinite Pronouns.”
Use an apostrophe plus s to create the possessive case of indefinite pronouns. Indefinite pronouns are pronouns that do not refer to any particular person or thing, such as somebody, anybody, someone, anything, something, and so forth.
I found someone’s keys on the desk over there.
Have you heard anyone’s suggestions yet about what to do for the summer social?
For more information, see the article entitled “Indefinite Pronouns.”
To create the possessive form for the abbreviation of a singular noun, add an apostrophe plus s.
That CPA’s salary is twice what mine is.
I’m not sure I understand the MDRA’s mission.
Generally, do not use an apostrophe plus s to create the plural form of an abbreviation.
There were three CPA’s at the meeting.
Do you know how many students received their MBA’s last year?
Have you met any of the RN’s?
There were three CPAs at the meeting.
Do you know how many students received their MBAs last year?
Have you met any of the RNs?
However, if the abbreviation has both capital and lowercase letters or has two or more periods, then an apostrophe should be used to avoid misreading.
All of my brothers earned PhD’s
To make the plural possessive form of an abbreviation, add an apostrophe after the s only.
Have you heard the CPAs’ recommendations?
We understand the RNs’ want to change their schedules.
Plural Letters and Words
To pluralize a letter or a word used as a word, italicize the letter or word and use roman type for the final s. Generally, no apostrophe is used to make the plural form of a word or an uppercase letter.
Do you realize how many heretofores are in this affidavit?
I don’t appreciate all of the maybes I keep hearing.
Of course you should capitalize the Cs in The CarltonCompany.
However, where the plural form of the capitalized letter might be misread if the apostrophe were omitted, then include it.
I think that there are two capital I’s in InterIndex.
When referring to letters used to represent scholastic grades, the letters are capitalized and left in roman type. An apostrophe is typically not necessary to create the plural form (though it is used after A so as not to confuse it with the word As).
He received three A’s, two Bs, and two Cs.
Our son received two I’s last semester.
An apostrophe generally is used for ease in reading, however, when creating the plural form of lowercase letters.
There are two t’s and two c’sin the word fettuccini.
Are those two e’s in that word?
To make the plural form of a number, add an s,without the apostrophe.
They like to skate figure 8s at the ice rink.
How many perfect 100s have you scored?
The apostrophe is also used to replace the missing letters in a contraction.
He said he couldn’t make it to the meeting this morning.
I haven’t seen her yet, but I’m sure she is around here somewhere.
Contractions are common in speech and informal writing, and many writers include them even in formal text to give the work a more conversational or relaxed tone. However, some readers disapprove of contractions in formal writing, so pay attention to the purpose of your document and the audience for whom it is intended.
When writing a contraction where the apostrophe comes at the very beginning of the word, make sure that an apostrophe, and not an opening single quotation mark (which is the default character that will be inserted by most word processors), is used.
‘Tis the best time of the year.
Filled with happiness and cheer.
’Tis the best time of the year.
Filled with happiness and cheer.
Such constructions are generally reserved for poetry and other forms of informal writing.
An apostrophe (again, not an opening single quote) is used to indicate the omission of the first two digits of a year.
His wife graduated two years before he did, in ‘75.
Do you remember the tornado of ‘05?
His wife graduated two years before he did, in ’75.
Do you remember the tornado of ’05?
However, do not omit the first two digits of the year if it might be unclear to readers which century is meant.
An apostrophe should not be used before the s when referring to the years of a particular decade.
He is definitely a child of the 1980s.
Her grandfather was a teenager during the 1950s.
Plural Form in Quotation Marks
The plural form of a word or phrase in quotations marks may look awkward, and thus the sentence should probably be revised to avoid this construct. If the plural form is retained, however, then an apostrophe plus s should be included within the quotation marks (never on the outside of the quotation marks).
With the state of marriage in this country, are there any “till death do us part’s” anymore?
With the state of marriage in this country, does anybody even make it to “till death do us part” anymore?
Sometimes writers mistakenly add an apostrophe where one does not belong. Following are instances where an apostrophe should not be used.
Do not use an apostrophe for nouns that are not possessive. This error sometimes occurs when a possessive pronoun appears in the sentence. However, a possessive pronoun does not necessarily mean that a nearby noun should also be in the possessive case. Rather, it depends on the grammatical function of the noun.
Their nephews’ all live in the Midwest.
Mr. Jenkins’s sons’, and their wives, visited here yesterday.
Our pets’ are like our surrogate children.
Their nephews all live in the Midwest.
Mr. Jenkins’s sons, and their wives, visited here yesterday.
Our pets are like our surrogate children.
Do not use an apostrophe for the possessive form of the personal pronouns its, whose, his, hers, ours, yours, or theirs. These words do not contain apostrophes, even though they are in the possessive case.
I did not know that their department had combined with our’s.
Liz said that their’s is a more relaxed working environment.
I did not know that their department had combined with ours.
Liz said that theirs is a more relaxed working environment.
The word it’s is the contraction of it is, and the word who’s is the contraction of who is. Do not confuse these two words with the possessive forms its and whose, which do not contain apostrophes despite being in the possessive case.
Every department has it’s own policies and procedures to handle such circumstances.
I don’t know who’s shirts these are that just arrived from the dry cleaner.
Every department has its own policies and procedures to handle such circumstances.
I don’t know whose shirts these are that just arrived from the dry cleaner.
Nor should apostrophes be used with the personal pronouns your, their, or theirs. Be careful not to confuse these words with the contraction you’re, they’re, and there’s.
What you’re colleagues said was inexcusable.
We have not heard they’re response yet.
Do you know which car is there’s?
What your colleagues said was inexcusable.
We have not heard their response yet.
Do you know which car is theirs?
Finally, present-tense verbs used with third-person singular subjects always end in s and do not ever have an apostrophe.
Our office boast’s some of the best talent in the nation.
Their yard look’s beautiful when all the flowers are in bloom.
Our office boasts some of the best talent in the nation.
Their yard looks beautiful when all the flowers are in bloom.
If you think of “branch managers” as part of the title, you would not need an apostrophe. If you think of “branch managers” as a description of the meeting, then.