Correct apostrophe usage

Inquiring minds


Each week the staff at the Roseville Library answers more than 2,500 questions on every subject under the sun. Here are some of the most interesting ones they’ve gotten lately.


Q. I want to hang up a sign at our front door to tell people whose house it is. Is it grammatically correct to use an apostrophe to announce that the “Smith’s” live here?


A. While it might seem logical to talk about “The Smith’s” when you mean your home, standard grammar books find this such an offense against the rules of good sentence structure that they give it a special cautionary flag.  Do not put the “The Smith’s” on your plaque unless you want to invite the scorn of any English teacher who happens to be in the neighborhood. “The Smiths” is just fine for your sign.

Part of the problem has to do with the placement of the apostrophe. For good grammar, the apostrophe goes after plural nouns like the “Smiths.”  If you were talking about the family’s car, for example, you’d say the Smiths’ Chevrolet. But for a sign marking their house, “The Smiths” with no apostrophe is simple and direct. (Webster’s New World English Grammar Handbook.)

Do you have a question for the staff at the Roseville Library? You can call them at 651-724-6001 or ask your question in person at the Information Desk, Roseville Library, 2180 Hamline Ave. Library hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.


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