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Tips from the Grammar Guru: 70’s vs. ‘70s

I think it’s time we talk about apostrophes and when we need to use restraint with them. An apostrophe is used to create a conjunction or indicate possession – NOT to make something plural. Under almost zero circumstances will you need an apostrophe to make something plural.

You can ditch the apostrophe when referring to a decade or an era, like the 1600s or 1970s. However you do need it if you want to abbreviate the decade. Do you know how to do so correctly? Which of the following is correct?

“The 70’s are my favorite decade.” or “The ‘70s are my favorite decade.”

If you guessed the latter, you are correct. The apostrophe in ‘70s is forming a contraction for the numbers you are replacing in the spelled out version “1970s.” Never put the apostrophe before the “s” when describing decades.

For plurals of multiple letters, we can again scrap the apostrophe and just add “s.” Example: “He is learning his ABCs right now.”

While a good rule of thumb to remember is that apostrophes are not used for plurals, there are a couple of caveats you should be aware of…

  1. When it comes to plurals of single letters, we need to use ‘s for the sake of clarity. Example: “I got straight A’s this semester.”
  2. If you’re describing something unique to and possessed by one particular year, an apostrophe is warranted.

Example: “Motor Trend named the Ford Torino as 1970’s Car of the Year.”

  1. If you’re referencing a fact or occurrence that belongs to a decade, you should put an apostrophe after the end of the number and between the “s.”
    1. Example: “I hate 1970’s style pants.”

In most cases, however, you’ll do well to remember that an apostrophe almost never follows a year, and should almost never be used to make something plural.

This post courtesy of MMC Summer 2019 Intern Bianca Price.

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