Blog/Grammar tips
5 December 2023
2 min read

Apostrophes and Years: Demystifying the Placement

Have you ever found yourself second-guessing where to place an apostrophe when writing about a specific year? You're not alone! The placement of apostrophes in years can be a bit of a brain teaser. In this article, we'll explore the correct usage of apostrophes with years, providing clear guidelines and examples to help you write with confidence.

Understanding Apostrophes with Years

The crux of the matter lies in what you're trying to convey. Are you talking about something belonging to a particular year, or are you abbreviating the year? Let's break it down.

When Referring to Something Belonging to a Specific Year

If you're indicating possession or something associated with a specific year, the apostrophe is used before the "s." For example, when talking about the fashion trends of 1920, you would write it as "1920's fashion trends."

Abbreviating Years

Now, what if you're shortening the year? In cases of abbreviation, like referring to the year 1999 as '99, the apostrophe goes at the beginning of the number, not after. It's there to show that part of the number is missing.

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Common Misconceptions and Clarifications

A common area of confusion is when people use an apostrophe after a year when they're simply making it plural. Remember, if you're talking about the 1920s in general, no apostrophe is needed. It's just "1920s."

Examples for Better Understanding

  • Correct for Possession: "The 1960's music scene was revolutionary."
  • Correct for Abbreviation: "The summer of '69 was unforgettable."
  • Incorrect for Plural: "The 1980's were a time of change." (Should be 1980s)


Navigating the world of apostrophes with years doesn't have to be a journey filled with doubt. Remember, the key is understanding what you're trying to express - possession or abbreviation. With these guidelines, your writing will not only be grammatically correct but also clear and precise.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the apostrophe always go before the 's' in years?

Yes, when showing possession or something specific to that year, the apostrophe goes before the 's' (e.g., "1980's trends"). For abbreviations, it goes at the beginning (e.g., '80s).

How do you write about multiple years in a row?

When referring to a span of years in plural form, do not use an apostrophe. For example, "the 1990s" refers to the entire decade with no apostrophe needed.

Is it correct to use an apostrophe when abbreviating a year?

Yes, when abbreviating, the apostrophe indicates the omission of numbers. For example, 1999 becomes '99 with the apostrophe replacing the omitted "19."

What's a common mistake to avoid with apostrophes and years?

A common mistake is using an apostrophe for plural years (e.g., "the 1960's"). Remember, no apostrophe is needed for plurals.

Can you use an apostrophe for decades?

You should not use an apostrophe when referring to decades in a plural sense (e.g., "the 1920s"). The apostrophe is only used for possession (e.g., "the 1920's style").

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