Do you use an apostrophe for possession in decades--not for plurals, just possession, as in "a 1960s style," that is, "a style of the 1960s"?

  • There's a good Q&A at ELU on this topic here. Consensus (sort of) is that the apostrophe is not used in things like 1960s. Oct 2, 2016 at 20:54
  • 2
    @P.E.Dant that question is a different usage. This example is a possessive form.
    – Catija
    Oct 2, 2016 at 21:52
  • @M.L.Bertucci So after all that, from the ELU discussion, it seems that the date without apostrophe is a noun (1960s) and that the Saxon genitive can then be applied to show possession (1960s'). It still looks screwy to me, but certainly better than 1960's' ... It gets even worse if we replace the century with an apostrophe as is common: '60s' . (I usually dodge the whole thing by spelling out Sixties, which gives me Sixties's for the possessive. That's not very elegant, either, I grant.) Oct 2, 2016 at 22:13

2 Answers 2


Thanks, everyone, for weighing in. I asked this same question on CMS Twitter and someone from the style manual responded that I should refrain from using the apostrophe. The reason is that CMS considers "1960s" in my example to be an adjective, not a noun. Since my clients--university publishers--tend to use CMS style, I'm going to go along with CMS's suggestion. I should point out that this is not actually found in CMS manual; it appears to be a response discussed around the office.

  • I'm reluctant to agree that it's an adjective, but I would agree at least that we don't need to consider it a genitive noun phrase in the OP's example, so I don't think we really need an apostrophe here.
    – user230
    Dec 7, 2016 at 17:34

This is not possession. It's actually the use of plural. In your examples we don't need apostrophe. We don't use possession either, the years are not the owner of the style, instead the style took place during those time.

From The New Fowler's Modern English Usage -

Though once commonly used in the plural of abbreviations and numerals (QÇ's, the 1960's), the apostrophe is now best omitted in such circumstances: MAs, MPs, the 1980s, the three Rs, in twos and threes. Except that it is normally used in contexts where its omission might possibly lead to confusion, e.g. dot your i's and cross your t's; there are three i's in inimical; the class of '61 (= 1961).

  • Your quote is talking about plurals, but your answer says you don't need an apostrophe to indicate possession. In other words, your quote does not support your answer.
    – user230
    Dec 7, 2016 at 17:31
  • @snailplane you are right. I have to modify my answer. Thanks for pointing it out. Dec 13, 2016 at 14:38

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