1. kristenhouse
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    kristenhouse New Member

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    Referencing letters in text

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by kristenhouse, Jul 11, 2014.

    What's the best (or required) way to reference letters when writing a book? For example:

    "She got straight A's all through high school."
    "I have to cross my T's and dot my I's."

    Not sure if the letters should be italicized, if they should be in quotes, or if they should have an apostrophe to show they're plural (T's and I's). Is there a correct way to go about this, or is it all just dependent on the author's writing style (as long as it's consistent)?
     
  2. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    I have often seen writing which does use an apostrophe, as you have indicated above.

    And yet, somehow I feel it must be wrong. I wish that I knew the answer here, but I do not.

    Someone with better grammar than I, please step forward.
     
  3. kristenhouse
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    kristenhouse New Member

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    I feel it's wrong too, even though I've seen it like that many times before. Hopefully we can figure this out. Thanks for your input! :)
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Don't use an apostrophe for capital letters, acronyms, and numbers. Otherwise, use an apostrophe.

    ETA: you don't use italics or quotes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2014
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I know the British tend to dispense with the apostrophe in these cases, while Americans tend to use them. But I can think of instances where both make sense. I mean, who could miss the meaning of "now I know my ABCs." In that case, an apostrophe (ABC's) isn't really needed.

    However, if you're talking about a capital A in the plural—every grade she got was an A—it would make sense to say : She got all A's. If you don't punctuate it that way, it can be confused with the word "as," depending on its position in the sentence. As are the best grades a student can get—you see the problem. Okay, you can take the coward's way out and re-write the sentence so it begins with a different word, but that's not really the point here.

    The older I get, the more I realise that punctuation is not an exact science. This heresy no longer bothers me. Punctuation (as well as formatting issues like italics and the use of all-caps to indicate shouting) isn't part of how we speak, it's part of how we write. And the reason it exists in writing is to replace the verbal sounds we make when we are speaking—our pauses, our possessives, our tone of voice—that make our meaning clear.

    In the above example, if you were speaking, you would say "Aeyz are the best grades a student can get." If it was the other word, you'd start with "Az." So the meaning would be clear before the context ever kicked in. But when you write it down, the meaning is not initially clear without the aid of punctuation.

    I'd say do whatever it takes to make your meaning clear. As long as your punctuation mark does what you wanted it to do, then I'd say forget rules and go for it—especially in creative writing.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2014

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