Where have all the apostrophes gone?

If you’re like most people, you wouldn’t have noticed the decline in the use of the apostrophe in the digital age. It seems that it has been usurped by the footmark, which may look similar, but doesn’t hold the same meaning.

Now there are reasons for this, but it’s largely down to code.

Every time you type in an apostrophe into your favourite software application (let’s say it’s MS Word), it automatically changes it for you. You start typing in “you’d love this…” and it works without batting an eyelash. Start typing the same thing into your blog post on WordPress for example, and it defaults to the footmark. Bring it to mobile and your lovely iPhone automatically fills in the footmark.

I know that a lot of people don’t care about or notice this, so it raises the question “Does it actually matter?”, and the short answer is yes, it does matter. It matters because a foot is a measurement and an apostrophe is used largely to indicate a word contraction. It represents missing characters.

Completely different meanings! (Some of my old proofreading colleagues would be very happy with me for making a stand, but I digress.)

Now there are ways to combat this, You can insert this into your HTML: “’” (without the quotes) in the place of an apostrophe. For example, Nick’s turns into Nick’s.

Note: some places suggest you use “'”, but that seems bring up the same issue. The trick is to cheat it by using the single quote character “’”.

This seems like a lot of hand coding just to use a common character. I thought that a script could be written to help with this matter (especially for larger blocks of copy), but then we run into issues should you ever need to use the footmark.

I would prefer to see is the ISO-8859-1 character set to default to the proper apostrophe, since the correct use of the footmark is minimal.

It might be a long shot to have the apostrophe defaulted into the common character set, but one can only dream and make due with the HTML cheat code for now.

Have a better solution? Leave a comment, and let’s solve this problem together!