Posted by: Jack Henry | March 16, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Apostrophes, Part II

Kara is enjoying a well-deserved day off today, but she left you the gift of this Editor’s Corner.

Hello all,

Today is part two of your apostrophe lesson from Daily Writing Tips. Enjoy!

Apostrophe Errors to Avoid (continued)

7. With a Span of Years
Some publications persist in using an apostrophe in a reference to a span of years, but that form is outdated: Write, for example, “The style, which flourished briefly in the 1960s, made a comeback several decades later” (not 1960’s) and “He continued to work well into his 70s” (not 70’s).

Generally, an apostrophe should follow a number only if it is possessive (“It was 1985’s longest-reigning Top 40 hit”), though this style is awkward. (An exception is use of a number to stand in for a person, such as when an athlete is identified by a uniform number, as in “It was number 13’s lucky day.”)

8. With the Plural Form of a Word Used as a Word
Don’t apostrophize the conjunctions in “There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it” or the counterpoints in “A helpful list of dos and don’ts follows.” (Do, however, retain the intrinsic apostrophe in the plural form of don’t.)

9. With the Plural Form of a Letter Used as a Letter
Even when a letter is italicized, it still looks awkward to simply place an s next to it to indicate plurality, so do insert an apostrophe: “How many m’s do you spell hmm with?” (Follow this rule even when, in the case of an expression such as “Mind your p’s and q’s,” italicization isn’t necessary.) However, omit an apostrophe when pluralizing capital letters: “She received only As and Bs on her last report card.” [KC – Here we would still use an apostrophe after the vowels so that they aren’t confused with actual
words, such as As or Is.]

10. With Brand Names
Many brand names, such as Starbucks Coffee, that technically should include apostrophes don’t, for one of two reasons (or both): A company decides that the brand name and/or logo look better without an apostrophe, or it reasons that it’s better to omit the punctuation mark so that people typing the URL for the company’s website into a web browser or searching for it (or for other references to the company) online won’t have difficulty doing so. Yes, “Starbucks Coffee” is a “mistake,” but one the company has the right to make (and writers and editors have an obligation to honor). [KC – Even though most editors I know would rather have it written correctly than get a free cup of coffee for editing it incorrectly.]

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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