Apostrophes are surprisingly difficult to use. They shouldn’t be. The rules surrounding them are straightforward. But even if you can get a handle on the rules, which I’ll talk about in the moment, errors can be difficult to spot when they inevitably slip through the editorial net.
I had a document back from a very pleased editor today, which is a nice thing to happen. However, looking at the text, the first thing I noticed was that I had written “the doors over there” as the penultimate piece of dialogue. I didn’t spot the mistake, my readers didn’t spot it, and the editor didn’t spot it. Apostrophes are tricky beggars*.
You may be asking yourself what the mistake was. It’s impossible to tell without the context – but the context is that the character is trying to indicate the location of a particular door, ie. the door is over there, rather than pointing out a particularly interesting group of doors. So the sentence should be “the door’s over there” not the “doors over there.” This sort of error is easy to miss. Given the right context, the incorrect sentence would be correct. Mis-used apostrophes can easily appear in the guise of misplaced words are awkward ideas.
So what are the rules for apostrophes?