Gather round word nerd friends, we are in our darkest hour.
Feel no shame if your skin crawls when you see the vile grocer’s apostrophe, I feel your pain. You’re not alone.
But we have lost one of our number. The man behind the Apostrophe Protection Society is calling it a day because ‘ignorance has won’.
John Richards, 96, a retired journalist, started the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001 to make sure the ‘much abused’ punctuation mark was being used correctly.
After a career as a reporter and a sub editor, John found once he’d hung up his red pen, the misused apostrophe became more apparent.
From reporters (‘especially the younger ones’) who seemed to have no idea of the correct use of the character to everywhere he went in daily life, he decided he could no longer ignore it.
He formed the Apostrophe Protection Society in the hope of finding half a dozen like-minded souls.
I didn’t find half a dozen people. Instead, within a month of my plaint appearing in a national newspaper, I received over 500 letters of support, not only from all corners of the United Kingdom, but also from America, Australia, France, Sweden, Hong Kong and Canada!
When I first set it up I would get about 40 emails or letters a week from people all over the world. Many were saying how it was about time that we had something like this.
But then two years ago it started to tail off and nowadays I hardly get anything. It seems that fewer organisations and individuals care about the correct use.
Those who do will get it right but those who can’t be bothered will just carry on sprinkling it about where they feel it looks nice.
However, John has ultimately admitted defeat:
With regret I have to announce that, after some 18 years, I have decided to close the Apostrophe Protection Society.
There are two reasons for this. One is that at 96 I am cutting back on my commitments and the second is that fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English Language.
We, and our many supporters worldwide, have done our best but the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!
While John may be calling it a day, the Apostrophe Protection Society website will remain online for reference.
We’re still out there doing the good work, John.
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Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.