Always Something New to Learn

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 theΒ  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.


17 thoughts on “Always Something New to Learn

  1. charliecountryboy

    Surely you say, β€œit happened in the 60s”
    But you would say, β€œ60’s music” as the music belongs to the 60s?
    As you would say β€œit belongs to Jim”
    As opposed to β€œJim’s music”
    Or am I just daft? πŸ˜‚

    1. quercuscommunity Post author

      You are correct that you can use an apostrophe for the possessive. The reason it caused me a problem was because you also have to use one to denote the missing 19, which is the one I often forget. So 1960’s music will be OK, as will ’60’s music, though it begins to look like a Festival of Apostrophes, which is why I’d probably wimp out of it.

      So, having established that you are sound on punctuation, we come to the question of whether you are daft or not…


  2. Billy Mann

    Right behind you on this, having spent more than 30 years at the Guardian correcting the work of arrogant reporters who can’t even be bothered the check the Guardian’s own online style guide. Painful death is too good for those who write 60’s, or even 00’s.


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