Apostrophes- dull punctuation marks or works of art?


Last Sunday I did the London to Brighton Bike Ride – a long way but a lot of fun, for anyone who’s interested  – and mid-last week the fine event organisers at the British Heart Foundation sent me an e-mail:

“Dear Alex

Best of luck for this sunday…

We are looking forward to welcoming you all to the London to Brighton Bike Ride 2009 on Sunday. Have a safe and enjoyable day and thank you from all the team UK.

To get you in the mood for the weekend, have a look at some photo’s and videos from last years Bike Ride

See you on sunday.”

Now I have a confession to make. I have to admit that my first reaction on receiving this charming and thoughtful e-mail was not to think “How kind of them to send that – they must be so busy in the run-up to the event”. It wasn’t even “What an excellent and innovative of digital communications – I must take a look at those photos and videos”.

No. I have to admit that my first thought was “What on earth possessed them to stick an apostrophe in ‘photo’s’?!! Why one there but not in ‘videos’?” I sat at my laptop for a few minutes fuming in disbelief, ranting inwardly about creeping illiteracy.

And then I thought more about it. I calmed myself down, and decided it was time to take a good long look at myself.

I mean what’s actually wrong with it? Why should the busy, good people at the BHF have bothered to worry about their apostrophes? I understood what they meant. Why should I get so angry about it? I was having a perfectly pleasant afternoon until I started getting unreasonably worked up over the placing of a small punctuation mark.

I thought back to a recent drive down to Somerset. As we’d meandered towards a fun-filled weekend with friends, driving along country lanes, past beautiful sunlit hedgerows, I’d spotted a roadsign:

“No through road for HGV’s”

Again, I’d fumed at this senseless addition of an apostrophe. But, again, it was harmless enough. It was like the apostrophes in “BBQ’s” on banners hanging outside B&Q, or all the apostrophes in “PR’s” that I see in e-mails almost every day. I realised that each one was just another little pin-prick the bubble of my fun – and it was my fault for letting it bother me.

In a moment of revelation I realised that I was pushing my bike up the hill of accuracy when I could instead be freewheeling down the slope of fun.

After all, I reasoned, maybe these apostrophes do have a place there. Some of them even look quite pretty, hanging there, breaking up words that look a bit too long, or a bit weird without an apostrophe in there.

So, I made a resolution there and then: no longer was I going to see the apostrophe as a tedious old punctuation mark. I was going to liberate it from this prison of punctuation. I was instead going to see it as an artistic expression.

No more would I urge people to  follow those dry, old, dusty rules about where it should and shouldn’t go. The new rule (not really a rule because rules are for squares) is that if it looks right, then stick it in!

Its been great. I feel s’o free! Less like some boring old fool slavishly following someone elses’ rule’s and more like a free s’p’i’r’it joyously living life to the full.

And I urge you to join me. Cas’t off the shackles of punctuation! Join my artisti’c revolution!Free your inner apos’trophe. I tell you, it’s just the beginning – today the apostroph’e; tomorrow the full sto.p After that who know’s what. We can liberate  ourselve’s entirely from the tirannie of all punctuashun? grmmer and speling.

Keep on freewheelin, friend’s!

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9 Comments

Filed under Writing

9 responses to “Apostrophes- dull punctuation marks or works of art?

  1. Great post, Alex.

    Do you think it’s perhaps because photo is short for photograph?

    So perhaps in singular they would write photo’ in the same way that some people write ‘blog because it’s short for Web log.

    Cheer’s 😉

  2. That made me laugh Alex, but I still don’t think I can bring myself to ignore wayward apostrophes.

    Hope you enjoyed the London-Brighton – did you conquer Ditchling Beacon? I did it last year, and it was a good day if rather congested in places. Those in the know say you need to depart Clapham Common by 6.30 to miss the crowds.

  3. Dear Alex – thanks for caring. Please don’t change your ways. Whilst I wish that the English language was more ‘transparent’ (try teaching a dyslexic child to spell – I have!) I’d rather we kept the apostrophe in its place. So, big deep breath and save the rage for the crazy way we spell things.

  4. Ellie Hawtin

    Hi Alex,

    Your blog really made me lau’gh! Funnily enough we have that exact road sign outside Cognition and someone has actually corrected it in permanent marker pen!

    Keep on blogging…

  5. Emily Perry

    Hey Alex,

    Another f’a’n’t’a’s’t’i’c blog!

    I have to admit I think I am one of the people who inappropriately uses apostrophes and all punctuationfor that matter! I blame the incredibly good looking english teacher I had at school!

    Look forward to the next installment!

    Emily””’ 🙂

  6. Very good – wonder where you stand on the ‘Windier’ ‘rainier’ can of worms?

  7. Peter

    Yes, right on!
    I haven’t chuckled at such musing since “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”, Lynne Truss.

  8. Mike A

    Hi Alex, I think it’s one of those British Heart Foundation cardio stress testing mailshots. I got one a few months ago advocating low alcohol beer, which causes me to hyperventilate even now.

  9. Jennie Ludford

    That is bloody hilarious Alex – I love it! Has brightened up an otherwise dismal week!

    Keep up the good work!

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