Punctuation 1:


Seven points to help you with apostrophes in English

· Use an apostrophe to indicate the possessive form of nouns:
... The group's proposals were discussed at length ...(singular group)
... The groups'proposals were discussed at length ... (plural groups)

·Always use an apostrophe and an s to mark a possessive. Beware of how your reader might react to:
... this connects to Contractor terminating equipment ... (intended meaning: the Contractor's terminating equipment)

· If the noun you wish to make a possessive already ends with an s, you have the option of adding just an apostrophe or an apostrophe and an s: EITHER ... to one of the chassis' galvanized upper arms ... OR ... to one of the chassis's galvanized upper arms ...

Preferably re-write this to remove the awkward grouping of letters:
... to one of the galvanized upper arms of the chassis ...

· Most English style guides suggest that plurals of letters, numbers, symbols, acronyms, or words you are discussing as entities, are formed by adding a small s:
... found more difficulty with a single A than with the four Bs ...
... failed to recognize that 2665 contained two 6s ...

· It is important to distinguish clearly whether acronyms are plurals, possessives, or both:

... are connected to the CPUs that have a ...
... are connected to the CPU's processors by ...

· Apostrophes are correctly used to form contractions like don't, shan't, what's, and it's. Such contractions are not suitable for formal writing in business, industry and research. Only use contractions in informal writing, such as hand-written internal memoranda.

· Just a reminder: its is the possessive form of it. No apostrophe is needed. It's is a contracted form of it is.


Damage/Damages · Damage: If you mean "skader/skadene" in Norwegian, remember that the noun damage does not have a plural "s" and always has a singular verb and pronoun. As damage in this sense is one of those words that is uncountable (words that never have A/AN in front), it is wrong to write:
*A damage. It is correct to write: The damage is , or A type of damage was....

· If there are different types of damage, the following phases express this.
The damage/ some damage/ a lot of damage/ considerable damage/ much damage...was discovered. It will be very expensive to repair. (Still remember the singular verb and pronoun):

· An informal use of damage means the cost of something. A typical expression before paying for drinks in an English pub is: What is the damage?

· Damages: this means "skadeserstatning". A legal term usually an amount of money claimed or received for injury or harm to a person's reputation. This is obviously not the plural of damage.
Following adverse press comments, Michael Jackson may consider filing claims for damages.

· Note that in American English, damages are often used informally about the cost of something: What are the damages for the repair job.

· As a verb, damage means to harm or injure: The fire damaged the property. Though things are damaged, people are physically injured, though their reputations may be damaged. Machinery is likely to malfunction or break down, rather than be damaged.


· These words may appear to be opposites like dependent and independent. In fact, flammable and inflammable are synonyms. Flammable is preferred in technical contexts to do with fire prevention. Inflammable is also used in more figurative contexts (=easily excited).
Nonflammable is the opposite of flammable.


· One of my favourite phrases is from a secretary in Trondheim who put my phone call through to her boss and told me:
"You can have him now."

Updated 22.02.95, Christian Viken, chrisvik@stud.unit.no