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I'm currently composing a letter to a good friend of mine—using actual pen and paper—and I just realised, that I have absolutely no idea how to properly handle apostrophes in cursive script.

English, is in fact, a second language to me. My native tongue does not use apostrophes, at least not in a way I'm aware of. So I've never had to learn them properly.

There are two ways, as I see it, to handle this:

  • 1) To simply write the word as a single word and stick an apostrophe in there, or;
  • 2) To break the script and shove the apostrophe between them.

To better illustrate my question I've included an example of both options below, using the word "friend's". (I'd like to apologise beforehand for my terrible handwriting).

Cursive apostrophe examples

So, which way is the proper way to render this in English script?

  • I had attended a Catholic school, and they had a whole regiment on cursive handwriting. Cursive education was as important as Catechism. If I had written cursive they way you wrote, my knuckles would have been sore. – Blessed Geek Nov 3 '13 at 4:13
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about how to physically draw an apostrophe, not about English language usage. – Kristina Lopez Nov 3 '13 at 5:01
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    @KristinaLopez I beg to differ. OP is not looking for advice on "how to draw." This is a legitimate question about the proper usage of an apostrophe when writing cursive script. Not only that, but the question is well written, and relates directly to the English language. – Lumberjack Nov 3 '13 at 5:10
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    @Lumberjack, OP's asking how to physically insert the apostrophe while writing in cursive handwriting - not how and when to use it. That's not English language usage, IMO. – Kristina Lopez Nov 3 '13 at 5:20
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    @KristinaLopez I would argue that, being able to properly write in a language is just as important as anything else and is indeed part of language usage. Then again, author bias is likely to render my opinion moot. – xles Nov 3 '13 at 18:07
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Just as with the dotting of one’s i’s and j’s and the crossing of one’s t’s and x’s, one adds any diacritics or apostrophes only once the entire word has been written out in full. Otherwise it breaks the flow.

Thus in writing one’s in a cursive/script hand, one first writes out ones without the apostrophe, then goes back and adds it once the word is done. Do not lift your pen between the e and the s. Finish the word, then add its needed decorations to complete it.

In the example below, the dot below a position makes a point that you return to finish up only after that entire word has been written out in full.

 I fear that this exit’s closed till tomorrow.
        ˙  ˙ ˙ ˙   ˙˙˙˙         ˙˙   ˙ 

Notice that the winner there is exit’s, which needs four fixes after the word is written before you’re done with it and can move on to write closed.

In cases with two t’s in the word, they are often crossed together with a single stroke, not merely when adjacent as in Scott, but sometimes when they’re a bit further apart, as in that. It just depends on how much “swash” in you have in your hand: how fast you’re writing and much flourish you’re using.

From this free page on writing in cursive, we have demos of all the letters, including the four that need fixing-up after they’re done.

how to write an i how to write a j how to write a t how to write an x

  • What does crossing one's xs mean? What do you write on the first pass? – Armen Ծիրունյան Nov 3 '13 at 14:40
  • @ArmenԾիրունյան Good question: this shows you how. – tchrist Nov 3 '13 at 14:45
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    Ah, I see. I guess I was confused because I always write the x as the Russian x in cursive. The way you showed was news to me. – Armen Ծիրունյան Nov 3 '13 at 14:51
  • @tchrist Brilliantly written answer, and it seems to confirm most of what the comments say about the matter. This is also the method that feels the most natural when writing, thanks! – xles Nov 3 '13 at 18:01
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I was taught to write the entire word and go back and add the apostrophe. One of the attributes of cursive is speed and my teaching supports the goal; however, beauty is another attribute and I think anyone would agree that your first example is nicer-looking than your second.

  • I sort of disagree. Separating the 's' from the rest of the word improves the readability, and shows that it isn't exactly a part of the word. We add the ''s' to show possession. If we were talking about the plural 'friends', then you'd obviously keep the s together with the rest of the word. But maybe this is a matter of personal opinion? – mikhailcazi Nov 3 '13 at 5:20
  • @mikhailcazi If readability were a primary concern, I wouldn't use cursive to begin with. – choster Nov 3 '13 at 5:48

protected by tchrist Nov 13 '15 at 1:09

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