Who needs apostrophes anyway?

There’s a trend for erasing apostrophes from street signs. CPL One’s chief sub-editor Jo Halpin ponders the possible ramifications.

The possessive apostrophe is under attack. 

Used since the 16th century to indicate that something is connected to or belongs to a person or thing – Jo’s book of grammar, for example – the punctuation mark is slowly being erased from public signage.

Some councils in England have decided that correct punctuation is just too problematic and that their street names should no longer follow the conventions of the English language.

Most recently, North Yorkshire Council declared that all of its new street signs will be produced without an apostrophe – ‘apostro-free’, if you like… which many of the residents don’t, apparently.

The local authority says it has taken the controversial decision to avoid problems with its IT systems; the punctuation mark presents a problem for its geographical databases – a clear-cut case of ‘computer says no’.

Birmingham City Council and Mid Devon District Council have also gone ‘apostro-free’, but for different reasons. It was a matter of cost for the West Midlands authority, while Mid Devon wanted to reduce potential confusion over street names – which is odd considering the whole point of punctuation is to give clarity.

This trend for disowning the possessive apostrophe is worrying for sub-editors such as myself, whose main purpose in the workplace – and, let’s be honest, most everywhere else – is to be pedantic about grammar. 

Can you imagine a world without punctuation itd be incomprehensible wed all have to write in code just to satisfy computers but its IT its purpose is to serve us so whore the losers in the end let the possessive apostrophe go and were on a slippery slope to not knowing whos who or whats what

Linguistic laments aside, it could also spell (probably incorrectly) the end of my career.

If these councils are right, punctuating text correctly is a costly indulgence that not only confuses people, but also has the power to bring down entire IT systems.

Luckily, CPL One values high-quality journalistic skills – including subbing and proofing – and our mission statement is literally ‘We help people belong’, so that should keep the possessive apostrophe in gainful employment for a while longer.

We understand that good punctuation is key to first-class communication; it allows copy to flow, can make it more impactful, and ensures that our clients’ messaging is delivered in a clear and unambiguous way. 

In the unlikely event that CPL One ever does join the ‘apostro-free’ movement, however – and the writing on the wall reads ‘Fetch Jos P45’ – I’ll try to prevent my career from coming to a full stop by asking: ‘Who’s Jos?’