Apostrophe to Show Contraction

A contraction is the coming together of two or more words with the omission of intervening sounds (in writing, of course, the letters). Contractions are common in speech and are permissible in informal writing, though they should be avoided in a formal style. They are most likely with auxiliary verbs and negative words, and in all cases an apostrophe should be placed in the position of the deleted sound or letter:

We would've gone. = We would have gone.

Notice that in the last example several sounds have dropped, but only one apostrophe is used.

The contracted form of the auxiliary have, incidentally, sounds exactly like the unstressed of. Because of this confusion such constructions as / could of gone are sometimes seen. That is not in accordance with formal usage and should be avoided. The proper form is: / could've gone.

t> The Apostrophe to Mark Elision

Elision is dropping a sound from a word. This often occurs in rapid speech going) and was sometimes done in older poetry (e'en for even, ne'er for never), though rarely in modern verse. An apostrophe signals when a sound is elided. Elision is rarely necessary in composition.

\> The Apostrophe with the Plural Forms of Letters

When letters and numerals are used in the plural, they generally simply add

Learn your ABCs.

The were a period of great change.

There are, however, three exceptions: (1) capital letters in abbreviations with periods, (2) capital letters that might look confusing with a simple -s plural, and (3) lowercase letters used as nouns:

The university graduated twenty M.A.'s. He makes his A's in an unusual way. Mind your p's and q's.

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