Apostrophes with family names often cause confusion. Luckily I can suggest a simple way to get these apostrophes right. Or a few simple ways.
They all work 100% of the time – take your pick. Just make sure you have an “of” idea: The house of the Parkers = the Parkers’ house. The terrier of the Parkers = the Parkers’ terrier.
Don’t use an apostrophe if there’s no “of” idea: The Parkers sent me a birthday card. No of!
- My favorite way to place the apostrophe correctly is to simply spell the name. You wouldn’t say “the Parker,” would you? It’s “the Parkers.” The last letter is “s,” and the apostrophe always goes after the last letter. So it’s Parkers’ house (house of the Parkers).
- Another way is to turn every apostrophe construction into an “of” idea. So let’s say you’ve written the Parkers new terrier, and you’re wondering where the heck the apostrophe goes. Make it an “of” idea: new terrier of the Parkers. Aha! Put the apostrophe after the last letter (the “s,” in this case): the Parkers’ new terrier.
- There’s still another way, probably the most elegant of them all. Any family name with “the” in front is going to end in “s,” so that’s where the apostrophe will always go: the Browns’ terrier, the Smiths’ porch, the Johnsons’ SUV, the Rodriguezes’ party, the Chans’ flat-screen TV.
It’s impossible to put “the” in front of a family name without putting an “s” at the end. Try it!
- One more thing: Omit the apostrophe when there’s no “of” idea: The Browns bought a time share. The Smiths are on vacation. The Johnsons are having their house painted. The Rodriguezes have company. The Chans are moving.
(You can watch a PowerPoint about apostrophes by clicking here. )