Fowler (1926) gave no information on this punctuation mark at the letter A except a cross-reference to an entry called ‘possessive puzzles’, which sounds rather more entertaining. He concentrated on a number of difficulties arising from use of the apostrophe, and the same tactic is adopted here in a place where the user will be more likely to look. Each problem is headed by a typical example that illustrates it.
In general, it should be borne in mind that the apostrophe denotes either (1) a possessive, or (2) omitted letters.
2. girl's, girls' as possessive.
The first is singular (one girl), and the second is plural (two or more girls).
3. women's and children's as possessive.
When the plural ends in a letter other than s, the possessive is formed by adding 's: the children's games, the men's boots, the oxen's hoofs, the women's cars, etc.
4. video's for rent.
This is the so-called ‘grocers’ apostrophe', an apostrophe misapplied to an ordinary plural, particularly in words ending in -o but also in quite harmless words such as apple's and pear's (e.g. pear's 30p a pound). It is, needless to say, illiterate in ordinary usage.
5. who's and whose.
These are sometimes confused (e.g. Who's turn is it?): see who's.
6. possessive of names ending in -s.
Add 's to names that end in s when you would pronounce them with an extra s in speech (e.g. Charles's, Dickens's, Thomas's, The Times's, Zacharias's); but omit 's when the name is normally pronounced without the extra s (e.g. Bridges', Connors', Mars', Herodotus', Xerxes'). With French names ending in (silent) -s or -x, add 's (e.g. Dumas's, le Roux's) and pronounce the modified word with a final -z.
7. hers, its, ours, etc.
An apostrophe should not be used in pronouns of this type (e.g. a book of hers). Note that its is normally used in attributive position, i.e. before a noun (Give the cat its dinner) and should be distinguished from it's = ‘it is’: see its, it's.
8. MPs, the 1990s, etc.
The apostrophe is no longer normally used in the plural of abbreviated forms (e.g. Several MPs were standing around), although it is of course used in the possessive (e.g. The BBC’s decision to go ahead with the broadcast). It is used in plurals when clarity calls for it, e.g. Dot your i's and cross your t's.
9. I'll, they've, you're, etc.
The apostrophe is used to form these regular contractions with pronouns, and occasionally with nouns (e.g. The joke's on them): see abbreviations 2.
10. cello, flu, etc.
The apostrophe is no longer needed in words that are originally contractions but are now treated as words in their own right, e.g. cello, flu, phone, plane. Other words retain them in their spelling, usually in medial rather than initial position, e.g. fo'c'sle, ne'er-do-well, o'er, rock ‘n’ roll.
11. Barclays Bank, etc.
The apostrophe is rapidly disappearing in company names and other commercial uses, e.g. Barclays Bank, Citizens Advice Bureau. Though occasionally disapproved of, the practice can be justified as an attributive rather than possessive use of the noun (i.e. Barclays Bank is attributive, implying association with Barclays, whereas Barclays' Bank is possessive, implying ownership by people called Barclay).

Modern English usage. 2014.

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