I'm not sure where I picked up this habit, but I think it might be grammatically incorrect. I'm a fiction writer and have just started working on a new novel, so I want to clear this up before I get too far in. Here's an example, since the question sounds a bit confusing:

The speaker starts off with: "... Shame that...-" Instead of: "... It's a shame that...-" This is how I wrote it: "'Shame that...-"

For some reason, I've picked up the habit of adding an apostrophe at the beginning of an incomplete sentence like that, but I'm not sure if it's just a grammar glitch that my brain contrived randomly or if I saw it used somewhere. Is this incorrect?

  • 1
    It's a completely non-standard usage of the apostrophe, but don't confuse orthography with grammar. The problem with self-styled orthography is that it can confuse readers, and if you're not self-publishing, it just makes more work for an editor to fix. PS are you aware of our other site Writing? If not, check it out! :-) Dec 14, 2018 at 8:45
  • The apostrophe is known to be used to indicate dropped alphabets, not whole parts of sentences.
    – Kris
    Dec 14, 2018 at 9:00
  • @Kris Which dropped alphabets were you thinking of? Phoenician and Linear A, perhaps? Surely not Greek or Cyrillic! Or maybe Cuneiform, where once dropped the tablets will never unpulverize?
    – tchrist
    Sep 12, 2019 at 3:59
  • @tchrist See A Lambent Eye below.
    – Kris
    Sep 12, 2019 at 11:18
  • @Kris An alphabet is “a set of letters arranged in a conventional order used in a particular writing system”, which is why I mentioned Greek and Phoenician. It does not mean a letter from that set. I think you are having been gone calquing something from a foreign language into the English where it is not belonging. You should have said letter if you meant letter, because alphabet means something else.
    – tchrist
    Sep 12, 2019 at 13:48

1 Answer 1


Yes, it is incorrect. As noted on Wikipedia:

It is used in contractions, such as can't from cannot, it's from it is or it has, and I'll from I will or I shall.

It is used in abbreviations, as gov't for government.

The omission of entire words outside of contractions is not possible.

You could write

'Tis a shame that [...]

though, but that is due to a specific accent.

  • ('tis) seems to be doing the same thing as (it's). (it's) turns two words into one, with the apostrophe marking the missing 'i' from the second word. ('tis) turns two words into one, with the apostrophe marking the missing 'i' from the first word.
    – Zebrafish
    Jan 15, 2019 at 0:52

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