Intensive Purposes: Apostrophes pt. 3

writing editing essay

writing editing essay

I bet you thought we were done with those tricky apostrophes! (If you missed parts one and two, catch up here!)

But what about when you want to talk about the 90s and its extreme love of flannel? Do you dot your i’s? Did you get all As on your report card?

If your head is spinning, take a step back, breathe, and come back to me. It’s not as complicated as it looks, I promise.

Let’s start with numbers, specifically decades. This is another case of it being up to you, though traditionally numbers are written without apostrophes, like the 1990s or Roaring 20s. You will see your fair share of 1990’s and 20’s, though, too. Just consult your style guide or whatever your company/teacher/book says and you’ll be fine.

For letters it’s a little trickier — lowercase letters get an apostrophe -s. You cross your t’s and dot your i’s. This is especially helpful when talking about the letters ‘i’ and ‘a’, as leaving out an apostrophe in these cases can make it look like you’re saying ‘is’ or ‘as’; apostrophes clear up the ambiguity.

For that same reason, you may want to use apostrophes when talking about getting all A’s on your report card, however typically apostrophes are not used when dealing with capital letters and acronyms like DOBs. However, again, this is largely a personal choice.

Apostrophes, man. Just remember (and this is a good general rule for all of the English language): avoid ambiguity and vagueness at all costs.

A play on the misquoted phrase “for all intents and purposes”, Intensive Purposes tackles one grammar rule or English language tip — from proper punctuation to misused phrases — in an easy-to-understand mini-lesson. 

  • One of my biggest writing pet peeves is when people use an apostrophe in letters and numbers. I’m not saying “The 1990 is style…” I’m saying, “The 1990s style…” But I agree, avoid ambiguity at all costs!

    • It’s a pretty simple check if people just thought “replace the apostrophe” when they saw it! But some people never do, haha