I have always been of the opinion that it should be possible to refer to a decade – 1960s or ’60s for instance – without the use of an apostrophe between the number and the s. It is something that seems to have crept in over the years and I notice that spellcheckers sometimes pick out the non-apostrophe version as incorrect.
The shop owner always uses 1960’s and I have always written it 1960s, assuming that I am once again out of step with modern thinking. However, I’m just finishing an article and I thought I’d better check a few things. As it’s for a numismatic journal I downloaded the Guidelines for the British Numismatic Society. I was happy to find that they say “The apostrophe is not used in dates or in the plural of abbreviations ‘the 1960s’, rather than ‘the 1960’s’.”
I didn’t really learn this, I suppose, as I already knew it, but it’s nice to confirm it. It also reminds me, when looking into the background, that I have grown sloppy at the other end as I always forget to add the apostrophe at the beginning of the shortened form – ’60s. All this is, of course, just a prelude to the subject of possessives. How about ’60’s music? I thought about putting that in quotes, but I fear my head might explode. You can see why style guides advocate recasting sentences to avoid situations of confusion. So, “music of the 1960s” it is then. I often do that when working round constructions I’m not confident with, and am happy to see that serious style guides suggest it.