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Apostrophe (punctuation)

An apostrophe' or  ) is a punctuation mark in languages written in the Latin alphabet. It marks omissions, forms the possessive, and, in special cases, forms plurals.

Table of contents
1 Usage
2 Grocers' apostrophes
3 Derivation
4 Alternative meanings
5 External links
6 See also


Things to note


To check you've got it right, swap the sentence around so that the part before the apostrophe becomes the last word. If the sense hasn't changed, you've got it right.

Pens' lids becomes lids of the pens.
Boy's hats becomes hats of the boy.
Boys' hats becomes hats of the boys.
Children's hats becomes hats of the children.
Two weeks' notice becomes notice of two weeks.
One week's notice becomes notice of one week.

But childrens' hats becomes hats of the childrens, so must be wrong.

Grocers' apostrophes

Wrongly placed apostrophes are known as Grocers' apostrophes (or sometimes, humorously, as Grocers apostrophe's), due to the frequent occurrence of hand-written signs on their produce, offering potatoe's, cabbage's and such like.


The use of the apostrophe to note possession in the English language derived from the Genitive case, but is now considered a Clitic.

Alternative meanings

In computer programming, the "normal" apostrophe (') (apostrophe or apostrophe-quote) corresponds to Unicode and ASCII character 39, or U+0027. The (preferred) apostrophe (right single quotation mark or single comma quotation mark) corresponds to Unicode character U+2019.

The difference between the two is great: U+0027 can be used to represent many different characters, such as a punctuation mark, a left single quotation mark, an apostrophe, a prime, etc. U+2019 always represent an apostrophe, or a right single quotation mark.

From the Unicode 2.1 standard:

U+02BC modifier letter apostrophe is preferred where the character is to represent a modifier letter (for example, in transliterations to indicate a glottal stop). In the latter case, it is also referred to as a letter apostrophe.
U+2019 right single quotation mark is preferred where the character is to represent a punctuation mark, as in "We’ve been here before." In the latter case, U+2019 is also referred to as a punctuation apostrophe. [1]

An apostrophe for punctuation should be drawn with a light curl (resembling an upsidedown comma), but U+0027 is nearly always drawn as a straight vertical line, and Unicode actually defines it must be drawn as such. U+2019 has the correct curl.

However, most digital documents use the "normal" apostrophe everywhere. The main reason for this is that on the character ' can be easily typed with any keyboard, whereas typing ’ typically requires a special input method. An additional reason is that there still exist old systems which can only handle ASCII or an 8-bit character encoding such as ISO 8859, which do not include the "correct" apostrophe.

The "normal" apostrophe is also used as a symbol to indicate measurement in feet; the right single quotation mark apostrophe is inappropriate in this context.

External links

See also