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The nuances of usage apostrophes in academic writing

Apostrophes are usually used in two cases: to demonstrate ownership (possession) or replace the omitted letters (contraction). Even though they play a significant role in informal writing while making it simpler, apostrophes are rare in academic papers. Due to the strict requirements for the formal style, many authors are just afraid of them! However, fears are groundless. Apostrophes could make the text clearer and engaging if used correctly. Read about the nuances of the usage right now!

Avoid contractions

To start with, remember about the main rule of academic writing — all letters should be in their place. It means that contractions are prohibited in formal papers. When the words such as "didn't" or "you're" are used, it is a stylistic mistake.

Wrong❌ Right✔️
Mr. Adamson didn't provide this research. Mr. Adamson did not provide this research.
The result isn't clear. The result is not clear.

The problem is, some authors get used to contractions and have no idea how to reformulate them. Use the table below in such a situation.

Full form Short form
I am I'm
They are They're
I will I'll
Should not Shouldn't
We have We've
Cannot Can't
What will What'll
What are What're
Where is Where's
Who had, who would Who'd
Who will Who'll

Reformulate the possessive forms

Using possessive forms of nouns are allowed but not recommended in formal writing. Such word structures make the text more complicated when the main requirements are clarity and understandability. The good news is, most of the possessions could be reformulated easily.

Possessive form Reformulation
This process changes the gene's structure. This process changes the structure of the gene.
Pollution impacts on the country's ecology. Pollution impacts on the ecology of the country.

Avoid apostrophe mistakes

The most common apostrophe mistakes in formal writing are:

Using apostrophes with possessive pronouns: its, yours, his, and so on.

Remember that apostrophes should be omitted with such pronouns.

  • The transformation is shown on it's monitor.
  • ✔️ The transformation is shown in its monitor.
  • It was he's responsibility.
  • ✔️ It was his responsibility.

Remember that plural forms do not always show possession.

Remember that apostrophes should be omitted with such pronouns.

  • The first DVD's became available.
  • ✔️ The first DVDs became available.

Using apostrophes with dates and decades. For example: 1980s, 60s.

  • The 1980's were difficult for socially disadvantaged individuals.
  • ✔️ The 1980s were difficult for socially disadvantaged individuals.
  • The population increased in the 60's.
  • ✔️ The population increased in the 60s.

Using apostrophes with some business names. For example: Starbucks.

Some companies do not use apostrophes if they have possession in the company name. It is an element of style and should be taken into account.

Incorrect using apostrophes with abbreviations

Remember! Apostrophes are not used with plural forms of abbreviations.

  • The corporate culture was built by 3 CEO's.
  • ✔️ The corporate culture was built by 3 CEOs.
  • They used 5 PC's to develop the program.
  • ✔️ They used 5 PCs to develop the program.

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