The apostrophe is the roadkill of language. Glance anywhere from the streets and sidewalks of America and you see (sometimes nearly smell) the slaughter: womens’ clothing (women is always plural, so you never add an s and put the apostrophe at the end), or, as in the sign outside the window I am looking through, homemade pie’s. Homemade pie’s what, you might ask? Its (not it’s) cherries? Its crust? But this apostrophe misuse is so ubiquitous that I suspect most of us are either too numb or too confused to even bother noticing.
There is really only one rule to apostrophe use, but, unfortunately, the rule’s usefulness has been lost to history. The apostrophe represents a missing letter or missing letters. Thus cannot becomes can’t, she has becomes she’s.
But here is what has been lost to history: English, back in the day, represented possession with an “e” in the suffix, not just an “s.” Sam’s screaming solo would have been written Sames (or, more likely, Sammes) screaming solo. We would have Markes breathing rhythm, Anthonyes anger management seminar, Mattes plush lawn, or Jennes perplexed look.
But we don’t. We rid ourselves of that “e” because we are a hasty and lazy people who have, evidence suggests, failed to adjust to the consequences.