By Kathleen Watson (used with permission)
Frigid winter temperatures have punished much of the United States this winter. For grammar enthusiasts, weather reports have drawn attention to when to use an apostrophe with numbers. These guidelines will prevent you from making mistakes.
When you add an s to numbers to make them plural, do not add an apostrophe:
- Temperatures will drop into the 30s tonight.
- There were four 747s waiting on the tarmac.
- She said both size 8s were too loose.
When writing about years as decades, do not add an apostrophe:
- He teaches a class on rock bands of the 1960s and ’70s.
- They worked together to refurbish a car from the 1940s.
- Her résumé describes her accomplishments in the 1980s.
When the year is specific and designates possession, add an apostrophe:
- During 1936’s Olympic Games in Berlin, Jesse Owens won four gold medals.
- Funds raised in 2018 surpassed 2017’s efforts.
- The Chicago White Socks were 2005’s World Series champions.
Avoid using numbers to start a sentence unless the numbers express a year:
- 1929’s stock market crash marked the beginning of the Great Depression.
- 2018 was the best sales year we’ve had in a decade.
Not: 70 percent of my day is consumed by responding to emails.
Better: Seventy percent of my day is consumed by responding to emails.
Best: I spend 70% (or 70 percent) of my day responding to emails.
- Do not use an apostrophe with numbers when you are making them plural: a fleet of 747s
- Do not use an apostrophe with numbers that indicate a decade: the 1960s or the ’60s
- Do use an apostrophe with numbers of a year to designate possession: funds surpassed 2017’s efforts
What examples would you add to these?
Kathy Watson loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. Her reference guide Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps you get over the hump with ease.