The apostrophe is considered a single letter with its own right in Klingon. It is used to display the glottal stop. (1) In Klingon, it is called qaghwI', literally "one who does interrupt" (2). It is the last letter in the alphabet used by Okrand in TKD (3).


The apostrophe in Klingon is a glottal stop, or a brief interruption in the flow of air in the glottis. Although it sounds complicated, the glottal stop is common in English, being the break in the middle of "uh-oh", or in the pronunciation of "button" as "but-n". The apostrophe is a Klingon consonant which must not be used improperly, as very different meanings can result: bISub (you are heroic) bIS'ub (bottom)

Writing the letter

There are several ways to type the letter and many people are not sure which key to use on their keyboard. The following shall be used as a suggested guideline, it is not a canon rule. Some people argue that it does not matter how the apostrophe is written, as long as it can be recognized as one.

Easy use: Typewriter apostrophe

Most English speakers (and writers) have no problem to write this, because they are used to type words with apostrophes in words like it's and don't. The key can simply be accessed right next to the enter key. German keyboards need to do a combination of "Shift+#" to get the apostrophe. This is the most common apostrophe symbol, but can cause conflicts in software who use it as a programming symbol. For instance, it is removed in Excel spreadsheets if the cell starts with an apostrophe.

be'pu' law' tu'lu' 'e' vItu'.

Looking better: Typographic apostrophe

This symbol is defined in Unicode as a "right single quotation mark" and is widely spread among typesetters. That symbol is used in nearly all canon sources and even Okrand sometimes uses it in his messages. He confirmed in an interview that it was not his decision to use that symbol in the first version of TKD.

Depending on the font you use, the choice of this makes the apostrophe look better. Some modern sans-serif fonts do not display it that way. The symbol looks a bit like a small nine, which you can create holding your Alt-Key and then type 0146. The HTML code is ’ or ’. This produces ’. That is too much work when writing emails, so it's maybe better to use the simple typewrite apostrophe mentioned above.
be’pu’ law’ tu’lu’ ’e’ vItu’.

Don't use: the left single quote

The "right single quotation mark" is officially defined as an apostrophe in Unicode, but his partner, the "left single quotation mark" is not.
be‘pu‘ law‘ tu‘lu‘ ‘e‘ vItu‘.

Don't use: the accent

Many writers who do not use apostrophes very often, might confuse it with the accent, which is easier to find and use on their keyboard, because for instance a German keyboard requires to hit the shift key to get the apostrophe. Using the French accent may make klingon text more difficult to read, and it does not look nice at all:
be´pu´ law´ tu´lu´ ´e´ vItu´.

The auto-format problem

When writing Klingon on a computer, it is important to deactivate auto-correct, especially the function which replaces apostrophes with back and forth tilting apostrophes. If not, it might look like the following:
be‘pu’ law‘ tu’lu‘ ’e‘ vItu’.

See also


1 : The Klingon Dictionary, p. 16

2 : qep'a' 2009

3 : The Klingon Dictionary, p. 77

External links

Category: Grammar    Latest edit: 26 May 2019, by KlingonTeacher    Created: 21 Mar 2014 by KlingonTeacher
History: r16 < r15 < r14 < r13 - View wiki text
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