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Weekly Error

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The [‘]90s were a great decade – at least for some Americans –  but I think we missed a golden opportunity to solve some long-term problems.

 

 

To

The [’]90s were a great decade – at least for some Americans –  but I think we missed a golden opportunity to solve some long-term problems.

 

A single open quotation mark used in place of an apostrophe:

 

Use apostrophes to indicate possession (as in the Smiths’ house) and omission (as in contractions such as don’t and as in abbreviated forms such as the ’90s).  Note that in abbreviated forms current usage omits the apostrophe before the final s, as in the ’90s and three MBAs.

 

Be careful when you type apostrophes. If you are using a word-processing program with the “SmartQuotes” feature, the program will automatically change apostrophes preceding words or numbers into single open quotation marks. (Remember that apostrophes curve to the left; open quotation marks curve to the right.)

 

One way to overcome this software flaw is to type the apostrophe twice, so that it appears ‘’90s, then go back and delete the first mark.

 

Because I find this procedure annoying, I like to refer to “SmartQuotes” as “StupidQuotes,” a term that doesn’t solve the problem but makes me feel better.

 

Weekly Tip

See Error Checklist for a compilation of 75 common writing errors.

For more exercises in identifying common errors,
take the M.B.A. exam and
the Punctuation and Grammar Challenges.