How to Punctuate Decades

Incorrect punctuation of decades is an issue I see a lot–not just in physical print but also online and on TV.

It’s important to make sure we are using correct punctuation so we appear professional and knowledgeable; and, let’s face it: it’s fun being smarter than everyone else.

Here’s how to do properly punctuate decades.

Right: I grew up in the 1960s.

Wrong: I grew up in the 1960’s.


Right: My dream car is a 1960’s Mustang convertible.

Wrong: My dream car is a 1960s Mustang convertible.

As you should already know from reading this post, one use of an apostrophe is to denote possession. As in: My brother’s car.

The same, then, is also true for a decade. In the first example, there is nothing being possessed. The decade itself is just a plural of multiple years. You wouldn’t say: I grew up in the nineteen sixtie’s, would you? Of course not.

I’m not sure why people like to add apostrophes where they don’t belong, but they do.

In the second example, however, there is something to be owned: the convertible. So an apostrophe is correct in this case. To write it out would look like: My dream car is a nineteen sixties’ Mustang convertible.

The 1960s is, essentially, taking ownership of the car, so an apostrophe is necessary.

Keep this in mind the next time you write out a decade, either spelled out or with numbers. And if you haven’t noticed the apostrophe being used incorrectly before reading this post, you probably will now!


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