Apostrophes in Science Fiction and Fantasy Names

In honor of International Apostrophe Day, we're going to talk about the odd case of apostrophes in science fiction and fantasy character names (and why you sometimes see an apostrophe in "Hawai'i").

Mignon Fogarty
5-minute read
Episode #379

Are Apostrophes Annoying?

Finally, some people find apostrophes in sci-fi and fantasy names annoying. (5, 6, 7) McCaffrey’s apostrophes have a reasoning and a meaning behind them: at the time of Impression, when a man becomes a dragonrider, his name is shortened, perhaps to make it easier to call out while they’re in the sky, (8) so F’lar was originally Fallarnon. (9) It seems to annoy people more when there is no reason for the apostrophe--when it’s just included to make a name sound exotic.


If you find an apostrophe (or two!) in character names annoying, you may appreciate this little joke: I first heard about it on the Writing Excuses podcast (audio link) in an April Fool’s episode, but it originated on a Live Journal post in Issendai’s Superhero Training Journal in which the Evil Overlady proclaims that apostrophes are to be pronounced “boing.” Therefore, it’s not pronounced F’lar, but rather “F-boing-lar.” So next time you see an annoying apostrophized name, just insert a “boing” for your own amusement. 

Happy International Apostrophe Day!

What’s in a Name? (an excellent article about creating character names in general)


1. Wikipedia Contributors. “Apostrophes: Use in Transliteration.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostrophe#Use_in_transliteration (accessed August 15, 2013).

2. Wikipedia Contributors. “Dune: Arab and Islamic References.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune_%28novel%29#Arab_and_Islamic_references (accessed August 15, 2013).

3. Wikipedia Contributors. “Tarzan of the Apes.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarzan_of_the_Apes (accessed August 15, 2013).

4. Wikipedia Contributors. “Hawaii.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaii" (accessed August 15, 2013).

5. Williams, I.R. “What’s in a Name? A Lot, When it Comes to  Fantasy.” The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2010/mar/16/fantasy-character-names (accessed August 15, 2013).

6. Allen, M. “What’s in a Name?” Writing-World.com. http://www.writing-world.com/sf/name.shtml (accessed August 15, 2013).

7. Username: PoeticExplosion. “RE: The Apostrophe in Names - Is it Just Me?” Science Fiction and Fantasy Community Chronicles. http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/11556-the-apostrophe-in-names-is-it-just-me-2.html (accessed August 15, 2013).

8. "Major Characters from the Dragonriders of Pern Novels." Angelfire.com. http://www.angelfire.com/planet/pernrpg/books/characters.html  (accessed August 15, 2013).

9. Wikipedia Contributors. “Characters in Dragonriders of Pern.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Characters_in_Dragonriders_of_Pern (accessed August 15, 2013).

Dragon image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.

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