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Save the Apostrophe!

August 28th, 2009

Every time you turn on the TV or radio there seems to be someone debating how to use the humble apostrophe correctly; or whether it should be allowed to languish and die.  People either love it or hate it and I think this often depends on whether they understand the correct usage or not.

Birmingham Council has been castigated for getting rid of apostrophes on all their signs.  Druid’s Heath or Druids’ Heath?  It depends on whether there’s a single lonely druid cavorting at the solstice or a group of them having a knees-up!  But apparently Birmingham has got tired of staff time being wasted dealing with complaints from purists.

Then there is the ‘grocer’s apostrophe’ where unnecessary apostrophes insinuate their way into simple plurals (apple’s and orange’s for sale!)  At the other extreme, one of the biggest grocers – Tesco – has been know to sell ‘mens magazines’ and ‘girls toys’.

And on the Internet the debate rages on.  Search for the correct use of the apostrophe and there are over 83,000 results.

So I’d better declare my position!  I like everything to do with words and the English language.  I’ve got a soft spot for the apostrophe and would hate to see it disappear.  That’s why most of our courses include a short handbook on Punctuation and Spelling (written by yours truly).  As a writer, editors and publishers expect you to get it right.  If you don’t, you’ll undermine their confidence in other aspects of your work.

There’s a good debate on the subject at the BBC website and if you want to check your own use of the apostrophe, visit our sister college’s site (STT) where there is an article in this month’s issue of Keynotes.  Finally, if that convinces you that the ‘tadpole’ needs to survive you could always join the Apostrophe Protection Society!

Diana

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