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Use of apostrophes in scientific writing


Generally, apostrophes indicate either two words that have been shortened into one word (e.g. isn’t) or indicate the relationship between two words (e.g. the boy’s ball). 

Words containing apostrophes are very common in casual written English, like a book or a letter to your friend, but apostrophes are not normally used in scientific writing.

Here are some tips for using apostrophes correctly in scientific writing.


Avoid using apostrophes to shorten words
Scientific writing requires a very formal style of language, so it is usually best to avoid using apostrophes to shorten words. 

It is best to not use:






Instead, you should use:

it is

is not


does not

did not


Acceptable use of apostrophes to indicate ownership
Apostrophes that indicate the ownership of an object, or the relationship between two objects, such as the girl’s ball or the father’s son, also commonly occur in standard written English, but are rarely needed in scientific writing.

Some exceptions that you can use in manuscripts are:

manufacturer’s instructions (one manufacturer)

manufacturers’ instructions (two manufacturers)

the Institution’s Review Board (one institution)

the Institutions’ Review Boards (two institutions, two boards)

The hospital's strategy

Jones and Black’s research

The National Cancer Institute’s guidelines

All of these phrases are acceptable in a scientific manuscript or thesis.


Rewriting to avoid using apostrophes

While the examples above are acceptable, you should avoid using apostrophes in other sentences. In most cases, the text can be rewritten or rearranged - so you don't need an apostrophe at all.

For example:

the patients' specimens

the cell's nucleus

can also be written as

the specimens collected from patients or patient specimens

the cell nucleus


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