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Left or right single quote?

When you replace the first two numbers of a year with an apostrophe (or single quote), do you use a left or right curly quote? Would it be ‘05 or ’05? I have found it both ways online, even both ways in the same paragraph.

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I was always taught it was an apostrophe, because apostrophes are usually what you use to replace missing letters or numbers in, for example, contractions such as "don't" and "I'm."

speedwell2 April 13, 2005, 9:41am

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Yes, however, when you're doing desktop publishing, you're not supposed to use keyboard apostrophes, you're supposed to use what are called single quotes. I'm unclear as to which to use in this case.

Leah April 13, 2005, 10:39am

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Really? When I did desktop publishing, I was supposed to use *appropriate* punctuation. An apostrophe is a different punctuation mark from a single quote.

speedwell2 April 14, 2005, 3:55am

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Ok, here's an example: See how they have the single quote in front of 05? In the intro paragraph at the top of the page, they have the single left quote. In the box to the right of that, they have the single right quote. In the copy, they do use apostrophes, which is fine, but I'm designing something where I'm going to use the curly quotes, and need to know which one to use. Thanks!

Leah April 14, 2005, 4:51am

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OK, I see that they're inconsistent... and I'm not going to help you decide which mistake to prefer in place of the correct usage. Maybe someone else will help you with that.

speedwell2 April 14, 2005, 7:45am

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I guess I don't see why you think a curly apostrophe is a mistake. And, no, a curly apostrophe, which can be known as a single quote, is not different punctuation (see, especially when you're trying to make something look good. Thanks for your help.

Leah April 14, 2005, 5:36pm

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Leah, just ignore Speedwell's bullying arrogance.
If you're using a proper curling apostrophe (like they do in almost every publication and book in the Western world) rather than an ugly straight apostrophe (like the ones that are used in the default on this website), it should ALWAYS curve the same way as an end-quote.
The reason for the inconsistencies you see on the internet is due to "helpful" computer programs which change an apostrophe placed before a word into an opening-quote.

Boustrophedon April 15, 2005, 6:50am

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Thank you!!

Leah April 19, 2005, 6:07am

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Would you believe that everyone's partly right?

The correct punctuation mark for the job is, indeed, an apostrophe, which Unicode has in three flavours. Kinda. While the apostrophe and right single quote are different characters, they look the same, which is good enough for shiny pictures (but could pose accessibility problems for electronic content. Screenreading apps, for example, could be a little confused).

Since a 'typewriter apostrophe' (U+0027, or ASCII 0x0027) is a sub-optimal choice, then you'll be after a 'typographic apostrophe', which is rendered using the right single quote character (U+2019). There's also a 'letter apostrophe' (U+02BC), for alphabets such as Cyrillic.

Unfortunately for you, your keyboard only knows ASCII. In Windows, by holding down the 'Alt' key and typing 0146 on the numeric keypad, you can type a right single quote that pretends to be an apostrophe → ’

The apple URI cited below misuses left single quotes. In later paragraphs, the text is rendered too small for the effect to be noticeable. The 'system requirements' section uses the right single quote, correct only due to the absence of an appropriate typographic apostrophe character. The odd thing about this is that they use dashes instead of abusing hyphens — an intriguing blend of good and bad punctuation, to put it mildly.

Finally, smartquotes. To circumvent this particular 'problem', you can simply type two (pretend) apostrophes in succession, and then delete the first. That said, this has nothing to do with the Internet (note capital letter) - webpages are stored and served as plain text, then rendered by the 'user agent'.

Persephone Imytholin April 19, 2005, 8:35am

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Note: I believe the common terms for those straight (non-curly) marks are "undirected single quote" and "undirected double quote".

I think you use undirected quote marks for hours, minutes, and seconds (either time, or angle), and also, for people still not using metric, undirected single quote for feet (distance measure) and undirected double for inches.

John May 9, 2007, 4:57am

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Doesn't Obama'08 seem odd? Is the apostrophe used as some sort of contraction or an omission mark for 20 in 2008? I think his entire campaign would benefit from the insertion of a simple space between his name and the year in which the election takes place. Don't you?

Caren November 30, 2007, 4:39am

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For more information on the correct character to use when abbreviating missing numerals, check the Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster's Manual for Writers and Editors to name a few:

Ben January 13, 2009, 4:28am

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The correct answer is the ‘right curly quote’ (as in <b>’14</b>)—no question about it. As others have pointed out, it’s actually an apostrophe (showing the omission of one or more digits), and apostrophes always point the same way as right quotes.

The only reason you’ll see it pointing the wrong way is computer software. Some software automatically turns straight quotes into curly ones by looking at the previous character: if there’s a space before it, it will decide that it’s a quote, not an apostrophe. Now this works a lot of the time, but it fails when the apostrophe is at the beginning of a word (such as in <b>’tis</b>)—or, in this case, dates.

Johano September 11, 2012, 1:13pm

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Yes     No