When not to use apostrophes

Do not use apostrophes:

in 3 weeks time     after 4 years delay     6 months salary    
  • in plural nouns, even when the base word looks unusual with plural s

avocados [not avocado’s]     skis [not ski’s]     tattoos [not tattoo’s]

She ate 3 avocados in a single sitting.

I own 4 pairs of skis.

His back was covered in tattoos.

  • in plurals of dates and other numbers
1990s     the early 2000s     people in their 20s and 30s
  • in plurals of acronyms and initialisms
CVs     KPIs     SUVs     URLs
  • in Australian placenames that include possessives
    Frenchs Forest     Kings Cross     Paddys River     St Helens

    See the Place Names search tool on the Australian Government Geoscience Australia website for a list of place names in Australia.

  • in the names of diseases that include a person’s name (see Human diseases and conditions)
    Crohn disease     Down syndrome     Huntington disease

    In everyday English, the older possessive form of these disease names is commonly used. It often persists in the names of nonprofit and research organisations that relate to these diseases (eg Parkinson’s Australia, Australian Alzheimer’s Research Foundation). Check the names of such organisations and use their official names.

  • with plural nouns that are descriptive rather than possessive or attributive

    drivers licence [a licence for drivers]     farmers market     girls high school     officers mess    

    Australasian Medical Writers Association     Willoughby Girls High School 

    But note that some organisations or institutions have chosen to retain the apostrophe – check the names of organisations and use their preferred form

National Farmers’ Federation     Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Did you know? A quick trick can help you decide whether a plural noun needs an apostrophe (ie is possessive or attributive) or not (ie is descriptive).

In many cases, an apostrophe is not needed if for rather than of would fit the sentence.


  • the traditional recipe of my mother-in-law (not for my mother-in-law) = my mother-in-law’s traditional recipe [possessive]
  • the eve of New Year (not for New Year) = New Year’s Eve [attributive]
  • a college for teachers (not of teachers) = teachers college [descriptive]
  • a licence for drivers (not of drivers) = drivers licence [descriptive]

In some cases, either for or of could apply. For example, the National Farmers’ Federation could be either a federation for farmers or a federation of farmers; hence the need to check the preferred form for organisation names.

User login

... or purchase now

An individual subscription is only A$60 per year

Group and student discounts may apply

Australian manual of scientific style Start communicating effectively