Contractions and Possessives
Contractions are words that have been made by "contracting" or condensing two words into one by removing a letter or letters and replacing them with an apostrophe: is not becomes isn't, for example. In all but one contraction, the apostrophe goes in the precise spot where the letters have been removed. The exception is that will not becomes won't.
- it's = it is
- they're = they are
- who's = who is
- you're = you are
Contractions are are commonplace in everyday speech and informal writing. However, we recommend you avoid contractions in a paper, lab or other assignment for university. When you revise your paper, assess all apostrophes: are they for a contraction or a possessive noun? If you answer "contraction", write the words in full.
One common error is the use of an apostrophe to make a noun plural. Nouns do not require an apostrophe to become plural. In English, s is often added to a word to make it plural: one book and two books (not two book's). A possessive noun is followed by another noun that belongs to it, and the possessive apostrophe shows this relationship: boy's bike, boys' bikes, mother's present, parents' worries.