The apostrophe (' or ’) is a punctuation mark, and sometimes a diacritical mark, in languages that use the Latin alphabet and some other alphabets. In English, the apostrophe is used for two basic purposes:
|U+0027 ' APOSTROPHE|
U+2019 ’ RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK
It is also used in a few distinctive cases for the marking of plurals, e.g. "p's and q's" or Oakland A's.
The word "apostrophe" comes ultimately from Greek ἡ ἀπόστροφος [προσῳδία] (hē apóstrophos [prosōidía], '[the accent of] turning away or elision'), through Latin and French.
The apostrophe was first used by Pietro Bembo in his edition of De Aetna (1496). It was introduced into English in the 16th century in imitation of French practice.
Introduced by Geoffroy Tory (1529), the apostrophe was used in place of a vowel letter to indicate elision (as in l'heure in place of la heure). It was also frequently used in place of a final "e" (which was still pronounced at the time) when it was elided before a vowel, as in un' heure. Modern French orthography has restored the spelling une heure.
From the 16th century, following French practice, the apostrophe was used when a vowel letter was omitted either because of incidental elision ("I'm" for "I am") or because the letter no longer represented a sound ("lov'd" for "loved"). English spelling retained many inflections that were not pronounced as syllables, notably verb endings ("-est", "-eth", "-es", "-ed") and the noun ending "-es", which marked either plurals or possessives, also known as genitives (see Possessive apostrophe, below). An apostrophe followed by "s" was often used to mark a plural; specifically, the Oxford Companion to the English Language notes that
The use of elision has continued to the present day, but significant changes have been made to the possessive and plural uses. By the 18th century, an apostrophe with the addition of an "s" was regularly used for all possessive singular forms, even when the letter "e" was not omitted (as in "the gate's height"). This was regarded as representing not the elision of the "e" in the "-e" or "-es" ending of the word being pluralized, but the elision of the "e" from the Old English genitive singular inflection "-es".
The plural genitive did not use the "-es" inflection, and since many plural forms already consisted of the "-s" or "-es" ending, using the apostrophe in place of the elisioned "e" could lead to singular and plural possessives of a given word having the exact same spelling. The solution was to use an apostrophe after the plural "s" (as in "girls' dresses"). However, this was not universally accepted until the mid-19th century. Plurals not ending in -s keep the -'s marker, such as "children's toys, the men's toilet", since there was no risk of ambiguity.
The apostrophe is used in English to indicate what is, for historical reasons, misleadingly called the possessive case in the English language. This case was called the genitive until the 18th century and, like the genitive case in other languages, expresses relationships other than possession. For example, in the expressions "the school's headmaster", "the men's department", and "tomorrow's weather", the school does not own/possess the headmaster, men do not own/possess the department, and tomorrow does not/will not own the weather. In the words of Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage:
The argument is a case of fooling oneself with one's own terminology. After the 18th-century grammarians began to refer to the genitive case as the possessive case, grammarians and other commentators got it into their heads that the only use of the case was to show possession .... Simply changing the name of the genitive does not change or eliminate any of its multiple functions.
This dictionary also cites a study that found that only 40% of the possessive forms were used to indicate actual possession.
The modern spelling convention distinguishes possessive singular forms ("Bernadette's", "flower's", "glass's", "one's") from simple plural forms ("Bernadettes", "flowers", "glasses", "ones"), and both of those from possessive plural forms ("Bernadettes'", "flowers'", "glasses'", "ones'"). For example, the word "glass's" is the singular possessive form of the noun "glass". The plural form of "glass" is "glasses" and the plural possessive form is, therefore, "glasses'". You would therefore say "I drank the glass's contents" to indicate drinking a drink, but "I drank the glasses' contents" when you've finished your second drink.
For singular forms, the modern possessive or genitive inflection is a survival from certain genitive inflections in Old English, for which the apostrophe originally marked the loss of the old "e" (for example, "lambes" became "lamb's"). Until the 18th century, the apostrophe was extensively used to indicate plural forms. Its use for indicating plural "possessive" forms was not standard before the middle of the 19th century.
For most singular nouns the ending "'s" is added; e.g., "the cat's whiskers".
When the noun is a normal plural, with an added "s", no extra "s" is added in the possessive, and it is pronounced accordingly; so "the neighbours' garden" (there is more than one neighbour owning the garden) is standard rather than "the neighbours's garden".
Compound nouns have their singular possessives formed with an apostrophe and an added s, in accordance with the rules given above: the Attorney-General's husband; the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports's prerogative; this Minister for Justice's intervention; her father-in-law's new wife.
For two nouns (or noun phrases) joined by and, there are several ways of expressing possession, including:
Some grammars make no distinction in meaning between the two forms.[note 2] Some publishers' style guides, however, make a distinction, assigning the "segregatory" (or "distributive") meaning to the form "John's and Mary's" and the "combinatorial" (or "joint") meaning to the form "John and Mary's".[note 3] A third alternative is a construction of the form "Jack's children and Jill's", which is always distributive, i.e. it designates the combined set of Jack's children and Jill's children.
When a coordinate possessive construction has two personal pronouns, the normal possessive inflection is used, and there is no apostrophe (e.g., "his and her children"). The issue of the use of the apostrophe arises when the coordinate construction includes a noun (phrase) and a pronoun. In this case, the inflection of only the last item may sometimes be, at least marginally, acceptable ("you and your spouse's bank account"). The inflection of both is normally preferred (e.g. Jack's and your dogs), but there is a tendency to avoid this construction, too, in favour of a construction that does not use a coordinate possessive (e.g. by using "Jack's letters and yours"). Where a construction like "Jack's and your dogs" is used, the interpretation is usually "segregatory" (i.e. not joint possession).
If the word or compound includes, or even ends with, a punctuation mark, an apostrophe and an s are still added in the usual way: "Westward Ho!'s railway station"; "Awaye!'s Paulette Whitten recorded Bob Wilson's story"; Washington, D.C.'s museums (assuming that the prevailing style requires full stops in D.C.).
An apostrophe is used in time and money references in constructions such as one hour's respite, two weeks' holiday, a dollar's worth, five pounds' worth, one mile's drive from here. This is like an ordinary possessive use. For example, one hour's respite means a respite of one hour (exactly as the cat's whiskers means the whiskers of the cat).
No apostrophe is used in the following possessive pronouns and adjectives: yours, his, hers, ours, its, theirs, and whose. All other possessive pronouns do end with an apostrophe and an s. In singular forms, the apostrophe comes first, e.g. one's; everyone's; somebody's, nobody else's, etc., while the apostrophe follows the s in plural forms as with nouns: the others' complaints.
The possessive of it was originally it's, and it's a common mistake today to write its this way, though the apostrophe was dropped by the early 1800s and authorities are now unanimous that it's can be only a contraction of it is or it has.[note 6]
Each of these four phrases (listed in Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct) has a distinct meaning:
Kingsley Amis, on being challenged to produce a sentence whose meaning depended on a possessive apostrophe, came up with:
Some singular nouns are pronounced with a sibilant sound at the end: /s/ or /z/. The spelling of these ends with -s, -se, -z, -ze, -ce, -x, or -xe.
Many respected authorities recommend that practically all singular nouns, including those ending with a sibilant sound, have possessive forms with an extra s after the apostrophe so that the spelling reflects the underlying pronunciation. Examples include Oxford University Press, the Modern Language Association, the BBC and The Economist. Such authorities demand possessive singulars like these: Bridget Jones's Diary; Tony Adams's friend; my boss's job; the US's economy. Rules that modify or extend the standard principle have included the following:
Although less common, some contemporary writers still follow the older practice of omitting the second s in all cases ending with a sibilant, but usually not when written -x or -xe. Some contemporary authorities such as the Associated Press Stylebook recommend or allow the practice of omitting the additional "s" in all words ending with an "s", but not in words ending with other sibilants ("z" and "x"). The 15th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style had recommended the traditional practice, which included providing for several exceptions to accommodate spoken usage such as the omission of the extra s after a polysyllabic word ending in a sibilant, but the 16th edition no longer recommends omitting the possessive "s".
Similar examples of notable names ending in an s that are often given a possessive apostrophe with no additional s include Dickens and Williams. There is often a policy of leaving off the additional s on any such name, but this can prove problematic when specific names are contradictory (for example, St James' Park in Newcastle [the football ground] and the area of St. James's Park in London). However, debate has been going on regarding the punctuation of St James' Park (Newcastle) for some time, unlike St James's Park (London) which is the less contentious version. For more details on practice with geographic names, see the relevant section below.
Some writers like to reflect standard spoken practice in cases like these with sake: for convenience' sake, for goodness' sake, for appearance' sake, for compromise' sake, etc. This punctuation is preferred in major style guides. Others prefer to add 's: for convenience's sake. Still others prefer to omit the apostrophe when there is an s sound before sake: for morality's sake, but for convenience sake.
The English possessive of French nouns ending in a silent s, x, or z is addressed by various style guides. Certainly a sibilant is pronounced in examples like Descartes's and Dumas's; the question addressed here is whether s needs to be added. Similar examples with x or z: Sauce Périgueux's main ingredient is truffle; His pince-nez's loss went unnoticed; "Verreaux('s) eagle, a large, predominantly black eagle, Aquila verreauxi,..." (OED, entry for "Verreaux", with silent x; see Verreaux's eagle); in each of these some writers might omit the added s. The same principles and residual uncertainties apply with "naturalised" English words, like Illinois and Arkansas.
For possessive plurals of words ending in a silent x, z or s, the few authorities that address the issue at all typically call for an added s and suggest that the apostrophe precede the s: The Loucheux's homeland is in the Yukon; Compare the two Dumas's literary achievements.[note 7] The possessive of a cited French title with a silent plural ending is uncertain: "Trois femmes's long and complicated publication history", but "Les noces' singular effect was 'exotic primitive' ..." (with nearby sibilants -ce- in noces and s- in singular). Compare treatment of other titles, above.
Guides typically seek a principle that will yield uniformity, even for foreign words that fit awkwardly with standard English punctuation.
Place names in the United States do not use the possessive apostrophe on federal maps and signs. The United States Board on Geographic Names, which has responsibility for formal naming of municipalities and geographic features, has deprecated the use of possessive apostrophes since 1890 so as not to show ownership of the place. Only five names of natural features in the US are officially spelled with a genitive apostrophe: Martha's Vineyard; Ike's Point, New Jersey; John E's Pond, Rhode Island; Carlos Elmer's Joshua View, Arizona; and Clark's Mountain, Oregon. Some municipalities, originally incorporated using the apostrophe, have dropped it in accordance with this policy; Taylors Falls in Minnesota, for example, was originally incorporated as "Taylor's Falls". On the state level, the federal policy is not always followed: Vermont's official state website has a page on Camel's Hump State Forest.
Australia's Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping also has a no-apostrophe policy, a practice it says goes back to the 1900s and which is generally followed around the country.
On the other hand, the United Kingdom has Bishop's Stortford, Bishop's Castle and King's Lynn (among many others) but St Albans, St Andrews and St Helens. London Underground's Piccadilly line has the adjacent stations of Earl's Court in Earl's Court and Barons Court. These names were mainly fixed in form many years before grammatical rules were fully standardised. While Newcastle United play football at a stadium called St James' Park, and Exeter City at St James Park, London has a St James's Park (this whole area of London is named after the parish of St James's Church, Piccadilly).
Modern usage has been influenced by considerations of technological convenience including the economy of typewriter ribbons and films, and similar computer character "disallowance" which tend to ignore past standards. Practice in the United Kingdom and Canada is not so uniform.
Sometimes the apostrophe is omitted in the names of clubs, societies, and other organizations, even though the standard principles seem to require it: Country Women's Association, but International Aviation Womens Association; Magistrates' Court of Victoria, but Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union. Usage is variable and inconsistent. Style guides typically advise consulting an official source for the standard form of the name (as one would do if uncertain about other aspects of the spelling of the name); some tend towards greater prescriptiveness, for or against such an apostrophe.[note 8] As the case of womens shows, it is not possible to analyze these forms simply as non-possessive plurals, since women is the only correct plural form of woman.
Where a business name is based on a family name it should in theory take an apostrophe, but many leave it out (contrast Sainsbury's with Harrods). In recent times there has been an increasing tendency to drop the apostrophe. Names based on a first name are more likely to take an apostrophe, but this is not always the case. Some business names may inadvertently spell a different name if the name with an s at the end is also a name, such as Parson. A small activist group called the Apostrophe Protection Society has campaigned for large retailers such as Harrods, Currys, and Selfridges to reinstate their missing punctuation. A spokesperson for Barclays PLC stated, "It has just disappeared over the years. Barclays is no longer associated with the family name." Further confusion can be caused by businesses whose names look as if they should be pronounced differently without an apostrophe, such as Paulos Circus, and other companies that leave the apostrophe out of their logos but include it in written text, such as Cadwalader's.
An apostrophe is commonly used to indicate omitted characters, normally letters:
Following an evolution in usage in the 20th century, today "the apostrophe of plurality continues in at least five areas": abbreviations, letters of the alphabet/small words, numbers, family names, and in non-standard use.
For abbreviations, including acronyms, the use of s without an apostrophe is now more common than its use with an apostrophe. Most modern style guides disparage the use of apostrophes in all plural abbreviations.
Some references continue to condone their use, or even recommend their use in some abbreviations. For example, The Canadian Style states "Add an apostrophe and s to form the plural of abbreviations containing more than one period", so G.M.'s is preferred to G.M.s. The Oxford Companion to the English Language condones V.I.P.'s, VIP's, and VIPs equally.
For single lowercase letters, pluralization with 's is usual. Many guides recommend apostrophes whether the single letters are lowercase (as in "minding your p's and q's") or uppercase (as in "A's and S's"). The Chicago Manual of Style recommends the apostrophe of plurality only for lowercase letters. Sometimes, adding just s rather than 's may leave meaning ambiguous or presentation inelegant. However, an apostrophe is not always the preferred solution. APA style requires the use of italics instead of an apostrophe: ps, ns, etc.
In the phrase dos and don'ts, most modern style guides disparage spelling the first word as do's. However, there is a lack of consensus and certainly the use of an apostrophe continues, legitimately, in which "the apostrophe of plurality occurs in the first word but not the second".
The Oxford Companion to the English Language notes that "a plural s after a set of numbers is often preceded by an apostrophe, as in 3's and 4's..., but many housestyles and individuals now favour 3s and 4s". Most style guides prefer the lack of apostrophe for groups of years (e.g. 1980s) and will prefer 90s or '90s over 90's or '90's.
While many guides discourage using an apostrophe in all numbers/dates, many other guides encourage using an apostrophe for numbers or are divided on the issue; for example, the Australian Government Style Manual recommends "Binary code uses 0’s and 1’s" but recommends "the 2020s". Still other guides take a laissez-faire approach. For example, the University of Sussex's online guide notes regional variation in the use of apostrophes in dates, and slightly prefers 1's and 7's over 1s and 7s but condones both.
The apostrophe is very often used in plurals of symbols, for example "that page has too many &'s and #'s on it". Some style guides state that the apostrophe is unnecessary since there is no ambiguity but that some editors and teachers prefer this usage. The addition of an s without an apostrophe may make the text difficult to read.
For many numbers and symbols, a useful alternative is to write out the numbers as words (e.g. thousands instead of 1000's or 1000s, and ampersands instead of &s or &'s).
The vast majority of English references published from the late 20th century onwards disparage the use of apostrophes in family-name plurals, for example identifying Joneses as correct and Jones's as incorrect. As an exception, the Oxford Companion to the English Language (2018) reports that, in addition to Joneses etc., standard apostrophe usage does continue "in family names, especially if they end in -s, as in keeping up with the Jones's".
See § Superfluous apostrophes ("greengrocers' apostrophes"), below.
Names that are not strictly native to English sometimes have an apostrophe substituted to represent other characters (see also As a mark of elision, below).
In transliterated foreign words, an apostrophe may be used to separate letters or syllables that otherwise would likely be interpreted incorrectly. For example:
Furthermore, an apostrophe may be used to indicate a glottal stop in transliterations. For example:
Rather than ʿ (modifier letter left half ring), the apostrophe is sometimes used to indicate a voiced pharyngeal fricative as it sounds and looks like the glottal stop to most English speakers. For example:
Finally, in "scientific" transliteration of Cyrillic script, the apostrophe usually represents the soft sign ь, though in "ordinary" transliteration it is usually omitted. For example,
If you have a name that ends in "s," or if you will observe home-made signs selling tomatoes or chili-and-beans, you will quickly note what can be done with a possessive apostrophe in reckless hands.— Algis Budrys, 1965
Failure to observe standard use of the apostrophe is widespread and frequently criticised as incorrect, often generating heated debate. The British founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society earned a 2001 Ig Nobel prize for "efforts to protect, promote and defend the differences between plural and possessive". A 2004 report by British examination board OCR stated that "the inaccurate use of the apostrophe is so widespread as to be almost universal". A 2008 survey found that nearly half of the UK adults polled were unable to use the apostrophe correctly.
Apostrophes used in a non-standard manner to form noun plurals are known as greengrocers' apostrophes or grocers' apostrophes, often written as greengrocer's apostrophes or grocer's apostrophes. They are sometimes humorously called greengrocers apostrophe's, rogue apostrophes, or idiot's apostrophes (a literal translation of the German word Deppenapostroph, which criticises the misapplication of apostrophes in Denglisch). The practice, once common and acceptable (see Historical development), comes from the identical sound of the plural and possessive forms of most English nouns. It is often criticised as a form of hypercorrection coming from a widespread ignorance of the proper use of the apostrophe or of punctuation in general. Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, points out that before the 19th century it was standard orthography to use the apostrophe to form a plural of a foreign-sounding word that ended in a vowel (e. g., banana's, folio's, logo's, quarto's, pasta's, ouzo's) to clarify pronunciation. Truss says this usage is no longer considered proper in formal writing.
The term is believed to have been coined in the middle of the 20th century by a teacher of languages working in Liverpool, at a time when such mistakes were common in the handwritten signs and advertisements of greengrocers (e. g., Apple's 1/- a pound, Orange's 1/6d a pound). Some have argued that its use in mass communication by employees of well-known companies has led to the less literate assuming it to be standard and adopting the habit themselves.
The same use of apostrophe before noun plural -s forms is sometimes made by non-native speakers of English. For example, in Dutch, the apostrophe is inserted before the s when pluralising most words ending in a vowel or y for example, baby's (English babies) and radio's (English radios). This often produces so-called "Dunglish" errors when carried over into English. Hyperforeignism has been formalised in some pseudo-anglicisms. For example, the French word pin's (from English pin) is used (with the apostrophe in both singular and plural) for collectible lapel pins. Similarly, there is an Andorran football club called FC Rànger's (after such British clubs as Rangers F.C.) and a Japanese dance group called Super Monkey's.
In the UK there is a tendency to drop apostrophes in many commonly used names such as St Annes, St Johns Lane, and so on.
UK supermarket chain Tesco omits the mark where standard practice would require it. Signs in Tesco advertise (among other items) "mens magazines", "girls toys", "kids books" and "womens shoes". In his book Troublesome Words, author Bill Bryson lambasts Tesco for this, stating that "the mistake is inexcusable, and those who make it are linguistic Neanderthals."
The United States Board on Geographic Names discourages the use of possessive apostrophes in geographic names (see above), though state agencies do not always conform; Vermont's official state website provides information concerning Camel's Hump State Forest.
The Geographical Names Board of New South Wales, Australia, excludes possessive apostrophes from place names, along with other punctuation.
George Bernard Shaw, a proponent of English spelling reform on phonetic principles, argued that the apostrophe was mostly redundant. He did not use it for spelling cant, hes, etc., in many of his writings. He did, however, allow I'm and it's. Hubert Selby Jr. used a slash instead of an apostrophe mark for contractions and did not use an apostrophe at all for possessives. Lewis Carroll made greater use of apostrophes, and frequently used sha'n't, with an apostrophe in place of the elided ll as well as the more usual o. These authors' usages have not become widespread.
The British pop group Hear'Say famously made unconventional use of an apostrophe in its name. Truss comments that "the naming of Hear'Say in 2001 was [...] a significant milestone on the road to punctuation anarchy".
Over the years, the use of apostrophes has been criticised. George Bernard Shaw called them "uncouth bacilli", referring to the apostrophe-like shape of many bacteria. The author and language commentator Anu Garg has called for the abolition of the apostrophe, stating "Some day this world would be free of metastatic cancers, narcissistic con men, and the apostrophe." In his book American Speech, linguist Steven Byington stated of the apostrophe that "the language would be none the worse for its abolition". Adrian Room, in his English Journal article "Axing the Apostrophe", argued that apostrophes are unnecessary, and context will resolve any ambiguity. In a letter to the English Journal, Peter Brodie stated that apostrophes are "largely decorative ... [and] rarely clarify meaning". John C. Wells, emeritus professor of phonetics at University College London, says the apostrophe is "a waste of time". The Apostrophe Protection Society, founded by retired journalist John Richards in 2001, was brought to a full stop in 2019, Richards (then aged 96) accepting that "the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!".
In a Chronicle of Higher Education blog, Geoffrey Pullum proposed that apostrophe be considered a 27th letter of the alphabet, arguing that it is not a form of punctuation. Computer software often acts this way, for instance selecting by word with a double-click will select all of
isn't but only the letters of
In many languages, especially European languages, the apostrophe is used to indicate the elision of one or more sounds, as in English.
Several languages and transliteration systems use the apostrophe or some similar mark to indicate a glottal stop, sometimes considering it a letter of the alphabet:
The apostrophe represents sounds resembling the glottal stop in the Turkic languages and in some romanizations of Semitic languages, including Arabic and Hebrew. In that case, the letter 'ayn (Arabic ع and Hebrew ע) is correspondingly transliterated with the opening single quotation mark.
Some languages and transliteration systems use the apostrophe to mark the presence, or the lack of, palatalization:
Some languages use the apostrophe to separate the root of a word and its affixes, especially if the root is foreign and unassimilated. (For another kind of morphemic separation see pinyin, below.)
The shape of the apostrophe originated in manuscript writing, as a point with a downwards tail curving clockwise. This form was inherited by the typographic apostrophe, ’, also known as the typeset apostrophe (or, informally, the curly apostrophe). Later sans-serif typefaces had stylised apostrophes with a more geometric or simplified form, but usually retaining the same directional bias as a closing quotation mark.
With the invention of the typewriter, a "neutral" or "straight" shape quotation mark, ', was created to represent a number of different glyphs with a single keystroke: the apostrophe, both the opening and the closing single quotation marks, the single primes, and on some typewriters even the exclamation point (by backspacing and overprinting with a period). This is known as the typewriter apostrophe or 'vertical apostrophe'. The same convention was adopted for double quotation marks ("). Both simplifications carried over to computer keyboards and the ASCII character set.
Formally, the symbol used to represent a foot of length, depth, or height, is ′ (prime) and that for the inch is ″ (double prime). (Thus, for example, the notation 5′ 7″ signifies 5 feet and 7 inches). Similarly, the prime symbol is the formal representation of a minute of arc (1/60 of a degree in geometry and geomatics), and double prime represents a second of arc (for example, 17°54′32″ represents 17 degrees 54 minutes and 32 seconds). Similarly in mathematics, the prime is generally used to generate more variable names for similar things without resorting to subscripts, with x′ generally meaning something related to (or derived from) x.
Because of the very close similarity of the typewriter apostrophe and typewriter double quote to prime and double prime, substitution in informal contexts is ubiquitous but they are deprecated in contexts where proper typography is important. There is also a risk of an automatic process "correcting" a typewriter apostrophe to a typographic apostrophe, which will not make sense if a prime symbol was intended.
In its Unicode Standard (version 13.0), the Unicode Consortium describes three characters that represent apostrophe:
For historical reasons, U+0027 is a particularly overloaded character. In ASCII, it is used to represent a punctuation mark (such as right single quotation mark, left single quotation mark, apostrophe punctuation, vertical line, or prime) or a modifier letter (such as apostrophe modifier or acute accent). Punctuation marks generally break words; modifier letters generally are considered part of a word.
In modern computing practice, Unicode is the standard and default method for character encoding. However, Unicode itself and many legacy applications have echoes of earlier practices. Furthermore, the limited character set provided by computer keyboards has also required practical and pragmatic adjustments. These issues are detailed below.
The typewriter apostrophe, ', was inherited by computer keyboards, and is the only apostrophe character available in the (7-bit) ASCII character encoding, at code value 0x27 (39). In ASCII, it may be used to represent any of left single quotation mark, right single quotation mark, apostrophe, vertical line or prime (punctuation marks), or an acute accent (modifier letters).
Many earlier (pre-1985) computer displays and printers rendered the ASCII apostrophe as a typographic apostrophe, and rendered the grave accent ` ('back tick', 0x60, 96) as a matching left single quotation mark. This allowed a more typographic appearance of text:
``I can't'' would appear as ‘'I can’t'’ on these systems. This can still be seen in many documents prepared at that time, and is still used in the TeX typesetting system to create typographic quotes.
Support for the typographic apostrophe ( ’ ) was introduced in several 8-bit character encodings, such as the Apple Macintosh operating system's Mac Roman character set (in 1984), and later in the CP1252 encoding of Microsoft Windows. Both sets also used this code point for a closing single quote. There is no such character in ISO 8859-1.
The Microsoft Windows code page CP1252 (sometimes incorrectly called ANSI or ISO-Latin) contains the typographic apostrophe at 0x92. Due to "smart quotes" in Microsoft software converting the ASCII apostrophe to this value, other software makers have been effectively forced to adopt this as a de facto convention. For instance, the HTML5 standard specifies that this value is interpreted as this character from CP1252. Some earlier non-Microsoft browsers would display a '?' for this and make web pages composed with Microsoft software somewhat hard to read.
Although ubiquitous in typeset material, the typographic apostrophe ( ’ ) is rather difficult to enter on a computer, since it does not have its own key on a standard keyboard. Outside the world of professional typesetting and graphic design, many people do not know how to enter this character and instead use the typewriter apostrophe ( ' ). The typewriter apostrophe has always been considered tolerable on Web pages because of the egalitarian nature of Web publishing, the low resolution of computer monitors in comparison to print, and legacy limitations provided by ASCII.
More recently, the standard use of the typographic apostrophe is becoming more common on the Web due to the wide adoption of the Unicode text encoding standard, higher-resolution displays, and advanced anti-aliasing of text in modern operating systems. Because typewriter apostrophes are now often automatically converted to typographic apostrophes by word processing and desktop publishing software, the typographic apostrophe does often appear in documents produced by non-professionals, albeit sometimes incorrectly—see the section "Smart Quotes" below.
|Unicode||(Decimal)||Macintosh||Windows-1252 Alt code||Linux/X||HTML entity|
|U+2019||8217||⌥ Option+⇧ Shift+]||Alt+0146 on number pad||AltGr+⇧ Shift+N or
XML (and hence XHTML) defines an
' character entity reference for the ASCII typewriter apostrophe.
' is officially supported in HTML since HTML 5. It is not defined in HTML 4 despite all the other predefined character entities from XML being defined. If it cannot be entered literally in HTML, a numeric character reference could be used instead, such as
In the HTML entity
’ the rsquo is short for right single quotation mark.
To make typographic apostrophes easier to enter, word processing and publishing software often convert typewriter apostrophes to typographic apostrophes during text entry (at the same time converting opening and closing single and double quotes to their standard left-handed or right-handed forms). A similar facility may be offered on web servers after submitting text in a form field, e.g. on weblogs or free encyclopedias. This is known as the smart quotes feature; apostrophes and quotation marks that are not automatically altered by computer programs are known as dumb quotes.
Such conversion is not always correct. Smart quotes features often incorrectly convert a leading apostrophe to an opening quotation mark (e.g., in abbreviations of years: ‘29 rather than the correct ’29 for the years 1929 or 2029 (depending on context); or ‘twas instead of ’twas as the archaic abbreviation of it was). Smart quote features also often fail to recognise situations when a prime rather than an apostrophe is needed; for example, incorrectly rendering the latitude 49° 53′ 08″ as 49° 53’ 08”.
In Microsoft Word it is possible to turn smart quotes off (in some versions, by navigating through Tools, AutoCorrect, AutoFormat as you type, and then unchecking the appropriate option). Alternatively, typing Control-Z (for Undo) immediately after entering the apostrophe will convert it back to a typewriter apostrophe. In Microsoft Word for Windows, holding down the Control key while typing two apostrophes will produce a single typographic apostrophe.
foo = 'He said "Bar!"';. Strings delimited with apostrophes are often called single quoted. Some languages, such as Perl, PHP, and many shell languages, treat single quoted strings as "raw" strings, while double quoted strings have expressions (such as
"$variable") replaced with their values when interpreted.
The C programming language (and many derived languages like C++, Java, C#, and Scala) uses apostrophes to delimit a character literal. In these languages a character is a different object than a one-letter string.
In C++, since C++14, apostrophes can be included as optional digit separators in numeric literals.
In Visual Basic (and earlier Microsoft BASIC dialects such as QuickBASIC) an apostrophe is used to denote the start of a comment.[note 11]
In the Lisp family of programming languages, an apostrophe is shorthand for the
In Rust, in addition to being used to delimit a character literal, an apostrophe can start an explicit lifetime.
REMwould be those where the apostrophe is allowed but a REM statement is not. Note that there are also cases of the reverse constraint; for example, in QuickBASIC, a comment at the end of a DATA statement line cannot start with an apostrophe but must use
The only statistical investigation of the genitive case that we are aware of can be found in Fries 1940. Fries found that the possessive genitive was the most common, but that it accounted for only 40 percent of all genitives.
Letters are usually pluralized with s: mind your p's and q's although capital letters are sometimes pluralized with s alone. The use of s to form the plurals of numerals, abbreviations, and symbols is not now as common as pluralization with simple s; 1970s, CPUs, &s are more likely to be found than the apostrophied counterparts.
[The apostrophe] is sometimes used to mark the plural of an acronym, initialism, number, or letter—e.g.: CPA's (now more usually CPAs), 1990's (now more usually 1990s), and p's and q's (still with apostrophes because of the single letters).
An apostrophe may be used to separate the plural suffix from the base with letters, numbers (notably dates), symbols, abbreviations, and words used metalinguistically ... This practice is less common than it used to be; with dates and abbreviations ending with an upper case letter, the form without the apostrophe is now more usual ...
In plural forms of a single letter an apostrophe can sometimes be clearer ... A's and S's ... minding your p's and q's ...
To aid comprehension, lowercase letters form the plural with an apostrophe and an s. ... the three Rs ... x's and y's