The apostrophe has two functions we all remember from sixth-grade English class.
An apostrophe indicates the possessive case (Jessica’s bagel).
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 feature of your word processor is activated (see straight and curly quotes), you type an apostrophe with the same key you use to type a straight single quote (
|straight single quote|
|apostrophe (same as closing single quote)||alt 0146||option + shift + ]|
Text imported from a plain-text source (e.g., a deposition transcript) 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 your smart-quote feature is on). If you type the phrase:
This will be displayed as:
The problem here is that the characters in front of 70s 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:
To get this result, you have two choices. You can manually delete the incorrect marks and type apostrophes directly (using the key combinations above). Or you can type two single quotes:
These will be displayed as:
Then you can delete the unneeded opening single quotes:
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’s wrong Hawai ‘i O ‘ahu’s right
Alternatively, you can omit the okinas. Anglicized spellings of Hawaiian words are almost always acceptable.
Hawaii Oahu’s right
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.