Remembering Tricky Apostrophes


You may have spotted the above card on social media. It’s based on a nerdy writer’s joke that has been rehashed in various versions. You can find a longer version at the bottom.

Apostrophes can seem to be one of the trickier methods of punctuation. They have inspired a cult like passion in people that revel in highlighting ‘grocer’s apostrophes’ and there are websites and books dedicated to pointing out ‘apostrophe errors’.

In contrast there are regular calls to abolish the apostrophe altogether with claims that it isn’t (or isnt) necessary for modern writing. Many local authorities have dispensed with using apostrophes on street signs and many shops drop them from their signage. Some people get quite angry about this and there are ongoing campaigns to ‘save’ and ‘preserve’ the apostrophe.

Such feverish attention to detail can be intimidating but teaching the use of them isn’t too difficult. They have two particular uses which is to ‘indicate missing letters’ and ‘show possession’ and you can find resources for these here.

A simple approach to remembering where to place a possessive apostrophe is to use an ‘Apostrophe Arrow‘. For this you simply point the apostrophe directly to the ‘owner’ (this works for singular and plural).

The exception to this is the example provided in the joke which is that a possessive apostrophe isn’t used with ‘its’. So for example:

The dog’s dinner. (The apostrophe is directly after the owner (the dog))
The dog ate the cat’s dinner. (Still directly after the owner (naughty dog))
The dog ate it’s dinner. (Except we don’t use an apostrophe this way (good dog, naughty apostrophe)
The dog ate its dinner. (Good dog, no apostrophe, happy grammar people)

This can be confusing and there’s no clear explanation for why we don’t stick a possessive apostrophe in its. To avoid sticking one there we need to remember the following:

We only use an apostrophe in it’s to indicate ‘it is’.

You can read more about the quirks of punctuation marks in Monster Punctuation.

Here’s the longer version of the nerdy writer’s joke (you can download a copy from here):


Books in Uganda

The brilliant photos above were provided by Pat Wiles who kindly distributed some STORIES4SCHOOLS books to Broadway Nursery and Primary School in northern Uganda.

Broadway School opened a couple of years ago and supports 163 pupils including 39 orphans living in ‘child-headed’ families where the eldest sibling is the head of the family.

Northern Uganda suffered from the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army civil war which led to children being born and raised in Internally Displaced Person camps. Schools were not built in these camps as they were considered a temporary measure.

In the photos you can see Headteacher John Calvin along with students and staff receiving the books and also writing postcards that have been sent on to the schools creating the books they received. The books they were given included stories created by children at Mbame School in Malawi along with books created by various schools in the UK.

Grace Orphan Care

I first visited Grace Orphan Care in 2006. At that time they met on rickety benches beneath a tree to provide school lessons for local orphans.

I was in Malawi as part of my work with young people involved in a national out of school training programme that supported young people living in areas of deprivation to organise community activities. Some of those young people became involved as Trainers and helped to deliver training to youth groups and schools across the UK and Ireland and it was with some of these that I visited the Grace Orphan project.

Our work in Africa was predominantly for the benefit of the young people we accompanied from the UK and we placed the emphasis of our visits on the sharing of ideas rather than us distributing any form of aid.

Children at the Grace were supported by local volunteers, Ernest and Giles. When we first worked with them they would meet on some rickety benches beneath a tree. The few items they had (a blackboard, some plastic bowls and cups, a pan, a small bike) were stored in a nearby house.

Over the next few years we visited the project several times and provided the initial assistance needed to help them acquire their own land for the purpose of building their own centre. On subsequent visits I worked with the project in grass huts on their new land and then later in their immaculate brick building. On each visit the project grew and so did the children.

One of the main activities during our visits to Africa was to assist with the teaching of English language skills. English is not the normal spoken language for most people in Malawi but English is required for children to progress through school.

The first stories4schools books were designed to address this issue and to date more than 2,000 stories4schools books have been sent to schools and projects in Malawi including Grace Orphan Care.

stories4schools as a fundraiser

Knightlow School in Warwickshire has created several stories4schools books. They have used their involvement to work with and support schools in Malawi, Uganda and India and their annual ‘book launch’ has become an eagerly looked forward to event.

Their most recent book involved the entire school. Each class chose a theme relevant to their local history and heritage. Some classes undertook local visits and others organised local historians to visit the school. A local museum kindly loaned the school some display items and many of these featured in the final stories.

The stories are mostly created between January and Easter with the aim of holding their book launch in May/June. After submitting their work the students shift their focus to planning their book launch which includes readings and performances of their stories, displays of how they created them and various fundraising activities including cakes and refreshments provided by parents.

Parents and members of the local community are invited to the book launch along with the Mayor and local media. Copies of the book are on sale and framed artwork of the original illustrations are auctioned off.

Each year the school has generated a surplus. This has allowed the school to register for their next book and cover their costs without eating in to the school budget. A small amount is kept to be used towards future fundraising costs while the rest has been used to send copies of their books to schools in developing nations. Their biggest achievement to date has been to provide funding for Mbame School in Malawi to have their own stories published. This is believed to be the first time a school in Malawi has published a book!

If you would like your school to do something similar please see the Registration Options or email for more details.

Kernow Writing Squad – The Man With No Shoes

Discover why the Snake has no legs and how the Gorilla found his ‘Gor’. Meet the talkative elephant and join Mandisa and Mandondo on their quest to bake the perfect cake among 17 beautifully illustrated stories.

The Man With No Shoes and other stories was created by young writers involved with the Writing Squad Kernow in Cornwall. The stories are suitable for confident readers and are perfect for older children to read aloud.

The Kindle version is available via Amazon

Create your own book with stories4schools

Knightlow Adventures

How does the world turn upside down? What happens to George the Monkey after he discovers a map? Will Ewan and Jessica find John the Snail? Find out in Knightlow Adventures…

Five stories created by children in the Early Years Foundation Stage and Year 5 at Knightlow C. of E. Primary School in Warwickshire.

The Kindle version is available via Amazon

Create your own book with stories4schools

Knightlow School – The Small Book of Big Tales

Will the Bird Man ever find his feathers? Does a football feel pain when it’s kicked? Will the mouse always be small? Can Golden Pants get over his boredom? What happens to Belle the fairy and Bob the not-very-scary monster?

Find out in The Small Book of Big Tales…
Five stories created by children in the Early Years Foundation Stage and Year 5 at Knightlow C. of E. Primary School in Warwickshire.

The Kindle version is available via Amazon

Create your own book with stories4schools

Knightlow Tales

How did the Giraffe Princess come to marry a monkey? Will Cat and Rabbit ever find their way to Monkey’s birthday party? Will the Princess and the Fairy escape from the dragon cave or will another Princess break free from the baddies? And what happened when the witch created a monster from a lion and a crocodile?

Find out in Knightlow Tales…
Five stories created by children in the Early Years Foundation Stage and Year 5 at Knightlow C. of E. Primary School in Warwickshire.

The Kindle version is available via Amazon

Create your own book with stories4schools

St Joseph’s Salisbury – Animal Tales

Will the old grey cat ever get his nap? Why does the giraffe have such a long neck?
Join Bernie and Edward as they search for the end of the rainbow and read about other animals and their adventures in Animal Tales…

Nine stories written and illustrated by students at St Joseph’s Catholic School in Salisbury.

The Kindle version is available via Amazon

Create your own book with stories4schools