What is an Apostrophe?

An apostrophe is the same character as a single right quotation mark, but its function is very specific. Apostrophes signify either (a) missing letters or numerals or (b) ownership/possessive.

Example A
Don’t touch that.
I haven’t had breakfast.
Example B
That is the dog’s bone.
Eileen’s mother’s step-sister took me in.
Examples of both A and B
‘That’s ’nuff now!’ he warned.
‘Let’s rock ’n’ roll!’ she whooped.

Read more about Quotations and Quotation Marks in Australian English.

Some other scenarios apostrophes should be used in

  • Decades—when abbreviating decades of time use apostrophe before words like ’60s and ’80s, as it makes it easier for the reader to understand by signifying the missing ‘19’. This helps to quickly differentiate the meaning of 1960s, for example, from a lady in her 60s.
  • Regarding the possessive for words ending in ‘s’, my preference is to drop the subsequent ‘s’. Eg. Simon Dorris’ hat, Jesus’ disciples, Philip Goss’ record.
  • Pluralising of letters written as words—an apostrophe should be used when an individual letter is pluralised. E.g. ‘There were too many L’s in that sentence.’ There is not much logic to this rule, but it less ambiguous than ‘There were too many Ls in that sentence.’

Apostrophes should not be used in

  • Common contractions such as quake, flu, phone
  • Place names (e.g. Surfers Paradise, Coffs Harbour, Clarks Summit) and street names (e.g. Princes Highway)
  • Plurals of initials and abbreviations, e.g. several TVs, MPs, PhDs, MBEs
  • Plurals of numbers (e.g. 100s, the 1980s, the 1800s)

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