What are the types of apostrophe


by Christoph Koeberlin

The apostrophe is a fascinating symbol, because there is no other one that is so disproportionate to necessity and frequency! Actually, he could be proud that people love him so, were it not for the inglorious nickname he has earned in the many false, often ridiculous uses: "Idiot apostrophe".

In order not to completely ridicule him, one could make it short:

The radical solution

Away with it! Actually nobody would miss him; A wrong sign is often used where it belongs and where it doesn't belong it is most common - even with a wrong sign. And so it can be found both in Germany ("Avoid apostrophes as a matter of principle. [They] disturb the typeface; they cause more unrest than they help reading") and even in English-speaking countries ("My position is that the apostrophe is on the way out. «) Proponents of this radical cure. But first of all, this does not always work and secondly, it would also be unfair to abolish the entire symbol because of frequent abuse. Then use it in moderation - and use it correctly.

The professional solution

No apostrophe

Since the recognition value of the wrong characters and their incorrect use is often higher with an apostrophe, I start with:

Simple coding symbol
U + 0027

No apostrophe: Easiest to achieve and at the same time with the least benefit. At most, it is legitimate as a substitute for the foot / minute symbol, and it is best to avoid the simple coding symbol (exceptions: e-mails, code, typewriter types, etc.).

`U + 0060

No apostrophe: Although the accents are relatively easy to reach, they have no function as long as there is no letter below them.

′ U + 2032

No apostrophe: The real foot / minute sign is even more difficult to reach than the apostrophe, so it is highly unlikely to appear as a false apostrophe. Details in degrees, feet, inches, minutes, seconds items.

Quotation marks (single closing)
U + 2018

No apostrophe: We're getting closer to the matter, but we're still just off the mark. In English a single opening quotation mark, in German a simple closing one, this character is basically just as difficult to reach as the real apostrophe, but nevertheless omnipresent as a supposedly correct "InDesign apostrophe" ...

The »InDesign apostrophe«

If you type a simple coding symbol directly after a letter in InDesign (and other "clever" programs), the program wants to be particularly clever and uses a simple closing quotation mark.

The correct apostrophe

’U + 2019

But now. The correct apostrophe is in the form of a 9 (with a filled punch), and that is also the common rule of thumb. In German, unlike in English, there is no quotation mark, but it can still be confusing, especially in old texts with many omissions (see article "Quotation marks") - one of the criticisms of those who oppose apostrophes.

The donkey bridge does not always work, however. The form of the apostrophe can differ, especially in sans serif fonts; there it often has the shape of a line that is inclined to the right, slightly thicker at the top, but not too far from the 9. Here are some variants:

Usage (1): Incorrect

Let's start with how it shouldn't be used - with the classic "idiot apostrophe" cases.

Not before the genitive s!

In contrast to English, the "whose" case does not need an apostrophe in German.


It may be used for clarification if the word ends in -s in its basic form (nominative).

In German, in addition to the ending -s, this also applies to -ss, -ß, -tz, -z and -x, and also to foreign words ending in -ce and -th: "Alice’ best friend "

In addition, the rule, like any other, can be broken if it serves the purpose: An American Diner looks more American in Germany with an apostrophe: »Robert's Diner« And if the basic form can be made clear, even the strictest typographer turns a blind eye: » Luca's Osteria "instead of" Lucas Osteria "

For technical reasons, e.g. on Twitter, an apostrophe can be placed in front of the genitive s, otherwise the s will be incorrectly recognized as part of the Twitter name and linked incorrectly:

To get around this, there is also a solution: the non-width space. You can get easy access via our Alfred workflow.

Not with the imperative

Never before the plural s and other words with s at the end!

The wealth of absurdities is almost inexhaustible, of which the apostrophe in front of the plural s is almost the most harmless:

Not necessarily before "-sche"

According to the new spelling, the syllable "-sche" can be separated from the (then capitalized) name. Without an apostrophe, however, it is never wrong:

Use (2): Right

The apostrophe as an ellipsis

According to Forssman / de Jong, the sole purpose of the apostrophe is to function as an ellipsis. It replaces letters that are not shown and is set - without spaces - like this:

When prepositions and articles are merged, however, it is difficult to understand where an apostrophe is allowed and where it is not; Nicola Pridik has put together a good overview:

  • Without an apostrophe: on, at, in, from, to, behind, over, under, in front, behind, over, under, in front, for, in, in, on, through, for, behind, over, under, in, around
  • With apostrophe: on’m, from’m, for’n, in’n, after’m, through’n, on’n, for’n, against’s, with’m, after’m

There is a good example of linguistically clean implementation on Christian Wöllecke's editorial blog.

The apostrophe appears much more frequently as an ellipsis in English and French:


A good font can be recognized by the careful kerning (also called "kerning") of the apostrophe, see also the kerning test. Holes like in the combination "L’A" and collisions like with "f’s" should be avoided:

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