Monday, July 20, 2015

Rock 'n' Roll or Rock and Roll?

Frank Zappa said it best: “The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe,” at least when it comes to rock ’n’ roll, because my old Merriam Webster has it as rock-and-roll. So I looked into it, and in the decades since my college years, Merriam Webster has thankfully dropped the hyphens in its spelling and added rock ’n’ roll as an alternate listing.

People more or less say, “Rock and roll.” They don’t bite off the letter a and launch right into the n, though most people do tend to drop the letter d in pronunciation. I’m sympathetic to rock and roll, but it looks and feels old and dreary on the page.

You may see it as rock ’n roll, and that’s horrific. Apostrophes in abbreviations or contractions indicate an omitted letter. In this case, the a and the d have been omitted and both apostrophes are appropriate.

Most style guides recommend rock ’n’ roll, but here’s the tricky part—your word processor will think you are starting a phrase in single quotes, and when you hit your apostrophe key, you’ll get a "6" shape instead of a "9" shape. You’ll need to copy and paste the apostrophe from after the n to before the n. It’s a little bit of a headache, but it’s worth it.