How can apostrophes correctly show omission?
This is the second of four lessons about Apostrophes. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Introduce the concept of omission when using apostrophes
– Explore four rules for correct abbreviation using apostrophes
– Provide examples of abbreviations, contractions, compounds and geographical names to help guide the reader
Having now discussed the history, form and academic use of the apostrophe (which is one of the most confusing of punctuation marks), this second lesson on the topic next focuses on one of its major functions: showing omission – which is when one or many letters of a word are deleted to make that word shorter and quicker to say. Using explanations and numerous examples, this lesson aims to demonstrate how to correctly use the apostrophe in your own informal writing to include any number of abbreviations, contractions, compounds or geographical names.
Rule 1: Abbreviations
Abbreviations have much variation, and are more generally described as being when either a word, phrase or longer piece of text is reduced in length. For the purposes of this section however, only the individual words that are shorted using apostrophes are exemplified. While most abbreviations never require an apostrophe or full stop to be grammatical, some forms occasionally do:
However, because many of these examples can be written either with or without their apostrophe, a student should be consistent when deciding to include these informal abbreviations in their own writing.
Rule 2: Contractions
Although contractions are in fact a type of abbreviation, we’ve listed them separately here as they’re formed somewhat differently. While the abbreviations we provided previously had letters omitted from only one word, for contractions the apostrophe is used to not only omit letters and sounds but to also join two or more words together. As can be seen in the following table, most contractions that are joined by an apostrophe are usually a combination of modal or copula verbs and other words such as pronouns:
Please remember that contractions such as these are however considered to be quite informal and should therefore be avoided in academic writing. Note also that the previous table is not exhaustive, with examples such as ‘let’s’ or ‘I’m’ being omitted.
Rule 3: Compounds
A compound is a type of word that’s created by combining two or more words together, such as how ‘work’ and ‘book’ combine to create the unique noun ‘workbook’. Traditionally, apostrophes were used whenever a compounded word like this was abbreviated, and so words like ‘net’ from ‘internet’ or ‘phone’ from ‘telephone’ were written as the following:
However, because modern usage dictates that it’s no longer necessary to punctuate abbreviated compounds in this way, particularly abbreviations which have become commonly used such as ‘phone’, students should avoid doing so in their own writing.
Rule 4: Geographical Names
Finally, and (like most omissions) rarely used in an academic context, you may occasionally see certain place names being abbreviated with an apostrophe, such as ‘W’hampton’ instead of ‘Wolverhampton’ or ‘Land O’ Lakes’ instead of ‘Land of Lakes’. Try to recognise these instances in which letters have been omitted.
Having now discussed how apostrophes may be used to omit letters from a word or combine two or more words into a contraction, Lesson 3 next focuses on the more academically useful topic of using this punctuation mark to form possessives.
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