Endangered Species Alert: Correct Use of the Apostrophe

You may have seen the news that John Richards, the founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society, has decided to call it quits after 18 years of fighting for the correct use of the troublesome punctuation mark.

Part of the reason is that Richards, a retired journalist, is 96 and needs to scale back his activities.

But he also feels that ‘ignorance and laziness have won’, his efforts over the years having proved so much tilting at windmills.

He may have a point: my phone’s autocorrect feature assumes that its must always be it’s, and I routinely encounter things like keeping up with the Jones’ and Closed Monday’s.

With John Richards’s retirement, the apostrophe lacks protection.

Does it matter? It can.

There was heated debate in Ghana earlier this year over the name of a new holiday celebrating the country’s path to independence. Was it to be Founder’s Day or Founders’ Day?

The first would have focused attention on Ghana’s first post-colonial leader, Kwame Nkrumah; the second, on the broader movement that brought about independence.

One small mark has the power, if used correctly, to honour an entire generation.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


  1. The apostrophe is very important. In the province of Quebec, there was a spate of problems caused when the use of the apostrophe denoting the possessive was (correctly) determined to be English so companies had to choose, for example, to change from, say, Tim Horton’s to Chez Tim Horton or be grammatically incorrect – Tim Hortons. Technology also contributes to the problem if an application doesn’t allow use of one in the naming of documents or urls so O’Brien becomes Obrien. Luckily I was bred by people with grammar genes – long may the apostrophe reign and thank you Mr. Richards for service to mankind.

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