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Fight back for the apostrophe

by: Garry Pierrepont (1 September 2009)

Council staff are now going to be issued with an “idiot’s guide” to the correct use of punctuation in an attempt to get the correct use of English on street signs.

It is, of course, the apostrophe which causes the most problems.

The step comes as many British people have become increasingly frustrated by the number of grammatical errors on signs and in documents as issued by official bodies.

Various daily and Sunday newspapers have received many examples of poor grammar and, in particular, misuse of the apostrophe, following a Sunday Telegraph report of a campaign by Stefan Gatward – now known as the Apostrophe Man of Royal Tunbridge Wells – in August 2009, as he had found numerous examples of poor grammar on street signs.

As a result some local authorities are going to issue an GCSE-style crib sheet to Council staff. For example, the Salford council version says: “Do not assume that if you don’t know whether to use an apostrophe, then most of your readers won’t either. Many of your readers will notice, and they will infer that you did not learn to write correctly.”

Other authorities have also issued guidelines, such as Hampshire, Devon, Salisbury, Plymouth, East Northamptonshire.

John Richardson, founder and chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society, commented: “Thankfully, councils are finally waking up to the problem of missing or incorrect apostrophes and punctuation, but they should not reall have to issue this sort of basic guidance.”

The latest move is in direct contradiction to the view taken by Birmingham City Council which ordered its staff to abandon the use of the apostrophe. City councillor Martin Mullaney said, however, that they were constantly getting residents asking for apostrophes to be put back.

All councils should get themselves a good proofreader!

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