Tag Archives: punctuation

A Good Night’s Sleep and an Apostrophe

A good night's sleep

A good night’s sleep

Should you use an apostrophe when you write about “a good night’s sleep”? Yes.

You’ve probably heard a teacher say that an apostrophe signifies ownership. That statement is correct, but it’s only part of the apostrophe story.

Apostrophes signify “of” ideas. Mary’s car means “car of Mary.” Dennis’ dog means “dog of Dennis.” Three weeks’ pay means “pay of three weeks.” And so on.

The apostrophe in “a good night’s sleep” means “sleep of a night.”

Time expressions often use apostrophes. A day’s pay means “pay of a day.” Two weeks’ vacation means “vacation of two weeks.” A moment’s delay means “delay of a moment.”

“Before the s or after the s?” If you take a minute to look at the example, you’ll have the answer: Spell the word (day, days, weekweeks, night, nightsmoment, momentsDennis, Mary) and put the apostrophe after the last letter.

Here are some examples:

a day’s delay

two days’ delay

a week’s pay

two weeks’ pay

a good night’s sleep

two nights’ dreams

a moment’s delay

several moments’ anxiety

For more practice with apostrophes, click here. You can watch a short PowerPoint about apostrophes here.

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How to Use a Colon

Ever wonder how to use a colon? Here’s an explanation I came across today:

Do not place a colon between a verb and its object or between a preposition and its object.

Correct – but almost useless, in my opinion. In order to use this information, you have to label the parts of speech in the sentence you’re writing – something most people haven’t done since high school (if they’ve done it at all).

Here’s a much simpler explanation:

Use a colon only when a sentence stops before it gives a list or explanation.

You can make it even simpler by just listening (inside your head) for that stop.

Here’s a little quiz for you (answers below): Which sentences require colons? (Listen for that stop!)

Stop Sign Wiki Commons

Quiz Instructions: Insert a colon where it’s needed in the sentences below. Not every sentence needs a colon.

1. The kit included twelve packages of yarn, two crochet hooks, and an instruction booklet.

2. Don’t load the car yet it needs to moved first.

3.  Here’s what we still need for the party ice cream, plastic glasses, paper plates, and potato chips.

4.  I’m waiting for news about my aunt she had an operation this morning.

5.  Things you won’t need to bring this weekend include linens, silverware, and soap.

ANSWERS

1. The kit included twelve packages of yarn, two crochet hooks, and an instruction booklet.

2. Don’t load the car yet: it needs to moved first.

3.  Here’s what we still need for the party: ice cream, plastic glasses, paper plates, and potato chips.

4.  I’m waiting for news about my aunt: she had an operation this morning.

5.  Things you won’t need to bring this weekend include linens, silverware, and soap.

One more point: Should you put a capital letter or a lower-case letter after the colon? Authorities disagree, so you can decide for yourself. Just make sure you’re consistent. Or ask your instructor, if you’re in school. Or check the style manual for the institution or company where you work. (Or suggest that they create one if they don’t have one yet!)

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