Have We Lost the Apostrophe?

When something needs a protection society, you can be sure it is well on its way to extinction. And so is the case with the apostrophe. But ironically, the Apostrophe Protection Society (APS) in Britain has declared itself dead and buried while the apostrophe it created itself to protect is still breathing—though barely.

The Society was founded in 2001 with “the specific aim of preserving the correct use of this currently much abused punctuation mark”. The Society’s founder Mr. John Richards, who has fought valiantly for two decades in the service of the apostrophe, is closing it down for two reasons. First is that he is cutting down on his commitments—given that he is 96, that is perfectly understandable. But surely, there may be, somewhere in the world, some younger champion of the post-office comma? (In some parts of India, the apostrophe is referred to as the post-office comma). The other is disillusionment with the state of punctuation—he feels that less and less people and organizations care about the proper use of the apostrophe.

What a tragedy! The apostrophe is an essential part of punctuation. Though misused, the mind boggles when one thinks of the confusion we would face without it. The Society laid down three key tenets in this regard: (1) use apostrophes to denote missing letters; (2) use them to indicate possession—except in the case of possessive adjectives like ‘its’. They also had a strict rule about when not to use them—never use them to indicate plurals.

At any rate, the announcement of the closing down of the APS has elicited so much interest that the website has not been able to take the traffic over the last few days, and is temporarily replaced with a message that the full site will be back soon. And the reassuring thing is that the site is not being closed down and will remain open for reference. (http://www.apostrophe.org.uk/)

RIP APS. But let us hope RIP Apostrophe is still some time away!

See also our older  post ‘Emma Watson’s ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’ Moment’ https://wordpress.com/post/millennialmatriarchs.com/21


Emma Watson’s ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’ Moment

Last week, Emma Watson was seen with a tattoo at a red carpet event. The tattoo said ‘Times Up’ and was in support of the movement against sexual harassment in the workplace which is snowballing, and is a follow on from the #metoo campaign.

Laudable intent. But less-than-laudable grammar!  What really caught everyone’s eye was that the tattoo said ‘Times Up’, rather than ‘Time’s Up’. With her characteristic sense of humour, Watson responded to the criticisms with a tweet: “Fake tattoo proofreading position available. Experience with apostrophes a must.”

Everyone is talking about it! I am happy for Watson, I am happy for the movement. But most of all, I am happy for the APOSTROPHE! Difficult for a punctuation mark to get red carpet attention, but the apostrophe’s done it (yes, and I think I got the apostrophe right, see rules below!).

So maybe we should give it some attention too! When you are out tomorrow, look out for how often the apostrophe is misused. I find more ‘errors of commission’, as compared to Watson’s ‘error of omission’. For instance, within 50 metres of my house is ‘Shri Ganesh Tyre’s’. Not much further down the road is ‘Sai Krishna Sweet’s and Snack’s’. (Raghu tells me that for some reason, in his school, they used to refer to it as a ‘post office comma’).

It may be worth taking a few moments to briefly review the usage (no guarantee we will still  get it right!):

The apostrophe is used in two situations (and I quote all the rules below from https:// en.oxforddictionaries.com/ punctuation/ apostrophe): (1) to show that a thing or person belongs or relates to someone or something: instead of saying the party of Sudha, you can write Sudha’s party; and (2) an apostrophe is used to show that letters or numbers have been omitted. For instance, I’m – short for I am, or he’ll – short for he will.

The biggest controversy about apostrophes is in the its and it’s!

These are the rules to remember:

  • Its(without an apostrophe) means ‘belonging to it’: The dog wagged its tail.
  • It’s(with an apostrophe) means ‘it is’ or ‘it has’: It’s been a long day.

Wondering if apostrophes are really worth a blog? Well Lynne Truss has written a whole book on punctuation and it was a bestseller! Do read her ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

And for more on the apostrophe, including the county which has banned it, go to