Apostrophes have two functions:

  • to show possession
  • to show letters are missing.

It’s always a good idea to follow house style (contraction of “it is”)
Please use Sarah’s statistics (showing possession)


The apostrophe shows that something is owned by someone. For example, the Statistician’s Office is the office owned by the Statistician. Depending on who is doing the owning, the apostrophe is used differently.

If the possessor is singular, use an apostrophe followed by “s”.

The report’s contents (contents belonging to the report)
The statistician’s opinion (opinion belonging to the statistician)

If the possessor is singular and ends in s, use an apostrophe followed by “s”.

James’s driving test
ONS’s web standards

If the possessor is plural and doesn’t end in s, use an apostrophe followed by “s”.

The women’s average salary
The department’s staff

If the possessor is plural and ends in s, use an apostrophe after “s”.

The statistics’ source
The statisticians’ discussion


The apostrophe here is used to show where letters are missing in a word. For example: do not › don’t

Contractions should be used. Avoid using ‘should’ve’, ‘could’ve’, ‘would’ve’ though, as these are hard to read.

The most common are:

Word Contraction
Are not Aren’t
Cannot Can’t
Could not Couldn’t
Did not Didn’t
Does not Doesn’t
Do not Don’t
Had not Hadn’t
Have not Haven’t
He had/would He’d
He will/shall He’ll
He is/has He’s
I had/would I’d
I will/shall I’ll
I am I’m
I have I’ve
Is not Isn’t
It is/has It’s
Must not Mustn’t
Shall not Shan’t
She had/would She’d
She will/shall She’ll
She is/has She’s
Should not Shouldn’t
That is/has That’s
There is/has There’s
They had/would They’d
They will/shall They’ll
They are They’re
They have They’ve
We had/would We’d
We are We’re
We have We’ve
Were not Weren’t
What will/shall What’ll
What are What’re
What is/has What’s
What have What’ve
Where is/has Where’s
Who had/would Who’d
Who will/shall Who’ll
Who are Who’re
Who is/has Who’s
Will not Won’t
Would not Wouldn’t
You had/would You’d
You will/shall You’ll
You are You’re
You have You’ve