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Is The Apostrophe In Danger Of Extinction?

 width= When you are writing and reading a lot each and every day, you are more aware of grammar and punctuation. There are several errors that constantly come up on your radar - and the use of the apostrophe must be on the top of that list. And I am not alone in being concerned about the incorrect use of the apostrophe! Would you believe that there is actually an Apostrophe Protection Society which has been doing sterling work in protecting this humble piece of punctuation from acts of grammatical vandalism?

More about the Apostrophe Protection Society!

This Society was started by a retired (and perhaps disillusioned) journalist John Richards in 2001 because he was tired of seeing the same mistakes over and over again, hoping he would find half a dozen like minded supporters. Within a month, he actually received over 500 letters of support from all over the world - including the USA. His website invited interested parties to submit photographic examples of "apostrophe abuse" they had seen on signs, posters and printed documents. They were asked to "Name and Shame"! And they did...

There are three simple rules for using the apostrophe

  • To denote a missing letter or letters. Example: Don't instead of Do not
  • To denote possession. Example: This is John's book
  • And the biggest sin - NEVER to be used to indicate plurals. Example: Please bring us your photo's instead of the correct photos
Follow these rules and you will never go wrong in your use of the apostrophe again.

The future of the Society

Now aged 96, Mr Richards has decided to call time on his role in the Society saying: "Fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English language. We, and our many supporters worldwide, have done our best but the ignorance and laziness (present in modern times) have won!" The Society itself has been less scathing, saying it was aware the way the English language is evolving during use, and it did not intend any direct criticism of those who made mistakes. In the meantime, and with all the publicity this Society has received in the past couple of weeks, the site has had a massive 600-fold increase in demand, resulting in their Server’s bandwidth being exceeded so they have had to close the full site until early January 2020. They apologize but will be back in the New Year!

Mr Richards was not alone in his crusade

There is a grammar vigilante who has been operating in Bristol in the UK in recent years. He takes to the street at night, using a specialist device to correct and fix business signs across the city as he sees fit. He has even been the subject of a BBC documentary. He will add an apostrophe where necessary and will remove another where it should not be. The unnamed vigilante is so committed that he has even produced an ‘apostrophiser’ device (equipped with a special ‘rolly polly end’) used to apply apostrophes where they are needed. He says that only his closest friends and family know about his secret life. To those who are appalled at his interfering ways, and even call his work criminal, he says: “I would say to them it’s more of a crime to have the apostrophe wrong in the first place. I think I can do it without causing too much offence.” Sadly, the correct or incorrect use of English grammar and punctuation is yet another way in which nations are being divided.