Posted by: Jack Henry | December 12, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Apostrophe Protection Society

Last week, Kathy C. sent Kara and me a link to an CNN article titled Apostrophe Protection Society Disbanded. At first, I was surprised to learn that there is an Apostrophe Protection Society. It made me wonder if there is a Quotation Mark Correct Usage Society or a Stop the Blatant Misuse of Capitalization Society. That would be cool! But I had a sneaking suspicion that I’d heard about the Apostrophe Protection Society before. And I definitely remember reading and writing about a group in the UK that advocated banning apostrophes altogether because they’re “too confusing.” I remember that surprising me because, as we’ve pointed out numerous times, there are only two main uses for apostrophes: to show omission and to show possession.

CNN’s article mentioned that the Apostrophe Protection Society was founded in 2001 by a retired British journalist named John Richards. Recently, Richards said that he has disbanded the society because the battle for proper usage has been lost.

Wait a minute! I didn’t know the battle was lost! I’m still fixing apostrophe mistakes in the jobs I work on. I haven’t given up hope! But Richards’s comment intrigued me, so I did a little research, and there is an interesting background to this story. Here’s a passage from an article I wrote in 2015:

In 2009, in England, the Birmingham City Council determined that apostrophes were too confusing, so they banned their use on road signs and place names (like King’s Heath—a suburb of Birmingham). John Richards, founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society, who was understandably outraged, said, “Now children will go around Birmingham and see utter chaos…If you don’t have apostrophes, is there any point in full stops [periods], or semicolons, or question marks? Is there any point in punctuation at all?”

Richards has been championing this cause for a long time, and he is clearly very passionate. My guess is that he is simply fatigued. This has been a long struggle. But I’m not so sure that there is no hope for the embattled apostrophe. Some people, like many of you (and me), care a lot. Some people don’t care at all. Whichever group grows biggest and strongest will win this language battle. That’s the way it works. Our language is always changing. Sometimes we like the change. Sometimes we don’t. But I’d say that the apostrophe battle has not been lost. Not yet, comrades.

And the Apostrophe Protection Society has not completely disappeared. In case you’re interested, there is an Apostrophe Protection Society website, and it was updated as recently as November 2019. They’ve put up a message that says the site will “remain open for some time for refence and interest.” That’s encouraging.

Incidentally, I just performed a search for apostrophes in this article, and I used 19 of them.

I’ll be in sad shape if they’re banned. (Make that 21 apostrophes.)

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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