apostrophesMake sure they’re curly and point downward

The apos­tro­phe has two func­tions we all re­mem­ber from sixth-grade Eng­lish class.

  1. An apos­tro­phe in­di­cates the pos­ses­sive case (Jes­sica’s bagel).

  2. In con­trac­tions, an apos­tro­phe takes the place of let­ters or num­bers that have been re­moved (is not be­comes isn’t, Patent No. 5,269,211 be­comes ’211).

Apos­tro­phes al­ways point down­ward. If the smart-quote con­ver­sion fea­ture of your writ­ing sys­tem is on (see straight and curly quotes), then type an apos­tro­phe with the same key you use to type a straight sin­gle quote ('). Your word proces­sor will con­vert this char­ac­ter to a curly apos­tro­phe (). Or you can type an apos­tro­phe di­rectly, us­ing the same key as a clos­ing sin­gle quote.

WindowsMacHTML
'straight single quote'''
apostrophe (same as closing single quote)alt 0146option + shift + ]’

Text im­ported from a plain-text source (e.g., a web page or email) may not have its apos­tro­phes con­verted to curly apos­tro­phes. To fix this, use the search-and-re­place tech­nique in straight and curly quotes.

Wrin­kles arise when an apos­tro­phe is used at the be­gin­ning of a word (again, as­sum­ing smart-quote con­ver­sion is on). If you type the phrase:

In the '60s, rock 'n' roll

This will be dis­played as:

In the 60s, rock n’ rollwrong

The prob­lem here is that the char­ac­ters in front of 60s and n’ aren’t apos­tro­phes—they’re open­ing sin­gle quotes. They point up­ward. What you need is an apos­tro­phe in place of each se­quence of omit­ted let­ters, so the re­sult looks like this:

In the ’60s, rock ’n’ rollright

To get this re­sult, you have two choices. You can man­u­ally delete the in­cor­rect marks and type apos­tro­phes di­rectly. Or you can type straight sin­gle quotes twice:

In the ''60s, rock ''n' roll

These will be dis­played as:

In the ’60s, rock ’n’ roll

Then you can delete the un­needed open­ing sin­gle quotes, get­ting you back to:

In the ’60s, rock ’n’ rollright
by the way
  • If you’re us­ing Hawai­ian spellings of Hawai­ian words, look out. Those apos­tro­phe-like char­ac­ters aren’t apos­tro­phes—they’re oki­nas. The okina is a let­ter in the Hawai­ian al­pha­bet that doesn’t ex­ist in Eng­lish. Ok­i­nas point up­ward, so use an open­ing sin­gle quote as your okina, not an apos­tro­phe. If the okina ap­pears in the mid­dle of a word, your word proces­sor will in­cor­rectly in­sert an apostrophe.

    Hawai’i O’ahu’swrong
    Hawaii Oahu’sright

    Al­ter­na­tively, you can omit the oki­nas. An­gli­cized spellings of Hawai­ian words are al­most al­ways acceptable.

    Hawaii Oahu’sright

    The okina is a glot­tal stop. In Eng­lish, the glot­tal stop is heard be­fore some vow­els, like in the mid­dle of the word uh-oh.