I am seriously wondering what the limits are concerning the use of elision. It seems from the definition that elision is the omission of one vowel, consonant or syllable:

In linguistics, an elision or deletion is the omission of one or more sounds (such as a vowel, a consonant, or a whole syllable)

Now, the questions are:

Can we use two elisions in a single word?

For example:

George used an apostrophes

George used a 'postroph'

Can we use an elision in the middle of a word?

George used an apostrophes

George used an apostr'phes

Almighty seems to be an edge case, because it's the fusion of all and mighty, so we sometimes see a'mighty, but I am not sure if you can use it in the middle of any word.

Last question is do we need to use an apostrophe when we omit a vowel, consonant or syllable

George used an apostrophes

George used an postrophes

  • 1
    The definition is incomplete. From the third sense at Merriam-Webster, it can also be "the act or an instance of omitting something : OMISSION." It's quite possible to elide entire words, sentences, or more. – Jason Bassford Mar 16 '19 at 15:32
  • Oftentimes, as Jason avers, the omission is much larger. As long as it is clearly implied, it can be safely omitted. – Rasdashan Mar 16 '19 at 16:02

There are lots of elisions which are possible in speech, and which you could easily indicate by an apostrophe so as to specify the exact pronunciation in poetry:

mis'ry, comf'table, murd'rous extr'ordin'ry, and maybe us'ly.

Alternatively, you could indicate these pronunciations with spelling:

misry, comfterble, murdrous, extrordinry, uzhly.

Or, if your poetry has a strong meter, you could just trust your readers to realize that they need to drop some syllables to make it scan.

Personally, I think the apostrophes look better than misspelling the words.

But one comment: Do people actually say apostr'phe? I wouldn't know how to pronounce the sequence of consonants /strf/ in the middle of the word. I can pronounce aposterphe, but that has the same number of syllables as apostrophe, so unless you were trying to make it rhyme with Gloucester fee I don't see why you would want to specify that (not uncommon) mispronunciation.

If you want people to actually read your poetry out loud, I would recommend only using elisions where the resulting word is pronounceable.


It was once common to use multiple elisions withing a single word, writing "cannot" as "c'n't" instead of the now standard "can't". This is now quite rare, but still valid, and may be used in psoetry to achieve a matrical effect. However, it may look contrived, and puzzle the reader, thus disrupting the flow of the verse, which is probably not what is wanted. Anyhtign too non-standard has this risk.

As to omitting the apostrophe as well, there are a few cases in which it is common or traditional to do so. "Til then" as an elision of "Until then" is not uncommon without an apostrophe, and "cant" without its apostrophe seems to be becoming more common. Come to think of it, "its" as the possessive of "it" never takes an apostrophe, as opposed to the contraction of "it is". But if there is any doubt, I would err on the side of leaving the apostrophe in. It makes what you are doing clearer, and reduces possible reader confusion. What is the benefit of leaving it out, after all? You aren't being charged by the character.

As to use in the middle of a word, note that the most commonly used elisions in modern English are the standard contractions "can't", "won't", "wouldn't", "shan't", and the like, all of which elide the "o" of "not" in a compound.

As Jason Bassford notes in a comment, elision can also refer to the omission of an entire word, phrase or sentence. This will not be indicated by an apostrophe, but, if at all, by an ellipsis (...) or possibly a dash. Such omissions are far from unheard of in poetry. Again, the problem is to make what remains clear enough to work for the reader.

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