Dont you hate it when people misuse apostrophe’s?

So, a few years ago, Waterstone’s decided to get rid of its possessive apostrophe in order to become Waterstones. According to an article in The Telegraph, the decision provoked ‘outrage’. Outrage along the lines of this:

and, my personal favourite, this:

Waterstone’s (or rather, Waterstones) have justified the decision by saying the apostrophe-free spelling is more ‘versatile’ and suited to modern URLs. Here’s The Telegraph on the subject, and you can find a smart article from The Guardian here.

The Kill The Apostrophe campaign puts forward a rather convincing argument here. The Apostrophe Protection Society make a similarly persuasive case here. A couple of items in The Telegraph: one on a council abolishing apostrophes on its signs; the other by Christopher Howse arguing that we perhaps take it a little too seriously.

No language debate would be complete without a contribution from our resident deity Mr Crystal, debating apostrophes with none other than Paxo on Newsnight…

And here’s Crystal again on the Waterstones/Waterstone’s furore. And let’s not forget you can’t go wrong with a bit of Lynne Truss, who explores the history and current use of the apostrophe in the first episode of her Cutting a Dash series, which you can listen to below:

At the bottom of this post, you’ll find Dr Julia Gillen in an article taken (surprisingly enough) from The Sun, as well as a perceptive and well-informed article from eMagazine.

When you’ve had a look at all of the texts to which I’ve linked, I’d like you to to answer the following question in the comments sections of this post: Should we abolish the apostrophe?

Guidance:

  • You should aim to write 200-300 words, and support your point of view with careful argument.
  • You should make reference to the arguments presented in the clips/texts linked to in this post.
  • Oh, and if you’re still struggling with apostrophe usage yourself, you could do a lot worse than this site to brush up. After all, Crystal may not judge you – but I certainly will.

Mr Shovlin

Dr Julia Gillen on Apostrophes (from The Sun).pdf

eMag – Long Live the Apostrophe.pdf

80 comments

  1. Jasmine Saadat

    The apostrophes usage of outlining possessives, plurals and illiterates has come under huge debate as the ever-changing modern world begins to believe the apostrophe is nothing more than a time-consuming nuisance. With businesses like Boots and Waterstones dropping their apostrophe and the Birmingham City Council banning the use of the apostrophe in their street signs, the apostrophe has come under fire. Websites and societies have been created to either defend or attack the punctuation mark. The Kill the Apostrophe website outlines that they believe the apostrophe is redundant, wasteful and time-consuming. The author even believes that it can be replaced for possessives by a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’. However, others have defended the use of the apostrophe by setting up The Apostrophe Protection Society which defends and outlines the importance of the apostrophe by listing usages in which the apostrophe is needed to decipher the meaning of the sentence. Although, with businesses and councils dropping its use of the apostrophe, more and more are beginning to question its usage and if the English language could survive without it. David Crystal, a linguist, argues that the apostrophe should be kept however its mark causes clutter in language due its confusing usage, the apostrophes usage only becoming truly recognised in grammatical rules in the 19th century. The apostrophe will most likely remain due to its roots in language however, as language changes and evolves overtime the apostrophes usage may also change and evolve. This change may see the apostrophe being dropped out of use because of the modern world moving to informal, quick language, a place where apostrophes are never seen. Or the apostrophe will be kept in language as its foundations are too deep and cannot be reversed. If its kept, the debate will rage on further but neither side will ever truly impact its use, no matter how much people try.

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  2. Shane Thiara

    The apostrophe may be the most controversial linguistic feature in the English Language, this is an issue that divides many people, from David Crystal to the Apostrophe Protection Society. Crystal feels as though we have managed so long without it in spoken language that we don’t need it in written language now, although it has been the newest feature of the English Language that people have always struggled to use and place in their works. Whereas, the APS feel that the apostrophe should be ‘protected’ and the Kill the apostrophe campaign takes a radical view on the position of the apostrophe, which there doesn’t really need to be. The campaign itself is very pro abolition, but I agree with the fact that apostrophe will soon be dropped out of circulation due to the fact that language is constantly evolving and changing and without any function for the apostrophe it will be abolished, but this can be said without having radical ideologies. This whole debate waters down to Waterstones who dropped the apostrophe for versatility and ease, which is totally understandable in the modern world we live in, due to the fact it is constantly evolving and the words and functions we use are for the sake of using them and to fit into to the new world. On the other hand, I understand that certain words such as ‘don’t’ require an apostrophe in order to seem as though it were a part of standard English and without it also doesn’t matter – so, apostrophe or not who cares?

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  3. Emily Skelton

    The debate about the importance of the apostrophe began when Waterstone’s decided to get rid of its possessive apostrophe in order to become Waterstones. This appeared to send many linguists into a frenzy, with campaigns such as ‘Kill The Apostrophe’ putting several arguments forward as to why the apostrophe should be abolished. Apostrophes have both positives and limitations and it has been a feature of the English language that many have struggled with. Firstly, it does appear as a slightly necessity (to show possession e.g. Shane’s coat and to highlight ellipsis e.g. cannot becomes can’t), but David Crystal feels as though we have managed without apostrophes in spoken language forever so why do we still need them in written language? I agree with Crystal on this however he states himself that language is a like a river which highlights that language is naturally changing and overtime the apostrophe can and mostly will become abolished naturally as the English language evolves. The main reason Waterstones dropped its apostrophe was for ease and accessibility on the web as a URL does not contain particular types of punctuation. This change was done due to societies natural changes and the language we use is for ease and to accommodate modern society. However, do some words in the written language really need to contain an apostrophe? For example, if you saw don’t written as dont you would still understand its meaning and does it really need the apostrophe to be deemed as standard English? Honestly, what’s the point? Or maybe its whats the point?

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  4. Nieeve Quinn

    The matter of apostrophes is one of the huge debates within studying language and its linguistic features. David Crystal, the linguist, would argue that people have gone this long without using it so we no longer need it in order to make our language sustain. Crystal described that the apostrophe ‘clusters up things’ and argues the ‘rules are not black and white’. This suggests his opinion on how rules can easily be adapted and changed to suit the needs of the population and how people unconsciously change rules for when they are not particularly needed. However, after the removal of the apostrophe ‘s’ from the company’s name ‘Waterston’s’ it sparked outrage within certain groups of people one being the Apostrophe Protection Society. This collection of people sees the removal of the apostrophe as a form of grammar ‘abuse’. The Kill the Apostrophe campaign argues how the apostrophe is ‘wasteful’ and provides no benefit or function towards the English Language. They argue the apostrophe is a tool for snobbery due to the misuse of it representing a ‘failing of standards’. This allows people to judge and perceive others based on their grammatical usage. I personally think the apostrophe offers some functions for particular people who would notice the deletion but I particularly believe the apostrophe is not worthy of noticing and shouldn’t be cared about due to its lack of effect.

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  5. Ellena Holdridge

    Should we abolish the apostrophe?
    Throughout the centuries the apostrophe has been questioned through function, usage and positioning. As David Crystal would say language is an ‘organism’ and is ever changing. The Apostrophe protection society is forever in competition with the kill the apostrophe campaign in a battle for peoples support. Some writers like The guardian’s David Marsh say that a company such as Waterstones losing their apostrophe is ‘despite what the telegraph says not the end of the world’. Whereas others like John Richards claim it is ‘just plain wrong’. As we can see he is likewise supported by Waterstones fans and some punctuation fanatics on twitter using the hashtag ‘#nothingissacred’ we can see noticeable prescriptivist nature in their distaste for anything ‘non-standard’. As we know as students of Language and the Kill the apostrophe campaign also recognises, these ‘rules’ or standards are arbitrary. However, this did not stop a huge uproar when the apostrophe was dropped.
    Dr Johnson says in the 18th century there were no longer any plural apostrophes after a consonant, but there are several nouns in his dictionary which escaped this rule. In the 19th century the apostrophe was strictly applied to possession nouns but this did not include pronouns like ‘his’ or ‘hers’. Even now there is still much debate on whether an apostrophe is needed or should be used or how we should or can use them. One logical suggestion to avoid this confusion would be to remove it. On the other hand, apostrophe can often help clarify the context and contractions like ‘we’re’ may just become ‘were’ or may need to be fully written out as we are’ which does take slightly more time. My verdict is we should keep apostrophes, but if they are missed or removed as long as it still makes sense it doesn’t really matter.

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  6. Ben Field

    The apostrophe is an arbitrary usage which irritates those who use it and confuses those who don’t. As technology is moving on, so our people’s views on punctuations. Messaging people has changed the use of language and punctuation used within it. As this is used globally, people are not going to go out of their way to hinder their own conversation. Language evolves and adapts to the world surrounding it. We live in a world where language is always changing, Oliver Kamm states that ‘language is a river.’ Language is always flowing. It’s a natural process which develops over a period of time. Although language is the talking point, it is used to reference everything within grammar. This is the real reason behind the usage of the apostrophe and is used to represent a greater change happening in society. However, by demolishing the apostrophe, we will be mixing same spelling words with the complete opposite meaning. ‘He’ll and Hell’ as expressed in killtheapostrophe.com will be mixed together if the apostrophe is discarded. This is a problem I know, and I do agree that some words need apostrophes to distance them from other words. Apostrophes are misunderstood from poor education or that teachers don’t flag up miss usages which are then examined by education boards and drop marks to capable students, all because they don’t use correct punctuation. Although the apostrophe can’t be abolished, the usage and the impact it has on society is controlled by schools and the education board. Society doesn’t use the apostrophe in verbal language so why should be use it in written? Language evolves and within language comes punctuation. Banishing the apostrophe is impossible, but changing the impact it has is plausible.

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  7. Dan Charles

    Should we abolish the apostrophe?

    The apostrophe is one of the most controversial features of the English language with regards to punctuation. The majority of punctuation marks in a sentence fall between words showing grammatical clauses’ separation, or serve the purpose to separate thoughts from each other. However, the apostrophe is also used within words, as well as to form combinations of words.

    This apostrophe’s uses work in two ways; to portray either possession or omitted letters. Instead of saying “dog that belongs to Dave,” one can say “Dave’s dog”, by replacing the ‘that belongs to’ with ‘s; with the apostrophe in this instance showing Dave is the owner of the dog. In addition, the apostrophe can also be used to conjoin words and form contractions. Examples of this include: don’t (do not), didn’t (did not), and you’re (you are). On this occasion, the apostrophe is converting the spoken combination of these words to written form.
    The apostrophe is at the forefront of many grammatical debates in the English language, due to the mistakes that can result from its misplacement and how common these mistakes are. The ‘Apostrophe Protection Society’ believe the misuse of the apostrophe is ‘abuse’ to the grammar.

    Waterstones’ removal of the apostrophe from its previous name “Waterstone’s” resulted in the anger of many grammar enthusiasts; some of which claiming this is a sign of the decline of language and the increasing lack of care shown for it. The company defended its actions by saying in the modern, digital age it made it easier to access online, with the URL being ‘Waterstones’ due to the inability for an apostrophe to be there.

    The ‘Kill the Apostrophe’ group inferred that apostrophes are time consuming and useless as people rarely use them. Due to the confusion and the overall lack of people that care, the change could just be accepted and the unnecessary anger avoided.

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  8. caseyclark

    Should we loose apostrophes?

    The argument between using apostrophes and dismissing them should not weigh so heavily upon English. The apostrophe, in short, is commonly misused. While being important in the sense that it guides our grammar, we could definitely learn to live without the apostrophe. Nevertheless, the telegraph addresses the debate, suggesting it has caused a “sparking outrage”, particularly in reference to the apostrophe drop in Waterstones. The guardian also addresses this specific problem, however informs its viewers “the world has not come to an end”. This comment suggests that there is no importance linked to a company choosing to drop an apostrophe. This also conveys the viewpoint that apostrophes are not important within the English language. Taking the same view, Christopher House suggests that the debate has become far too melodramatic for a simple grammatical change.

    Providing a case for keeping apostrophes, the ‘apostrophe protection society’ aims to preserve this piece of punctuation within our written texts, and stays updated with reasons as to why this is currently prioritized within our society. Leaning more towards a prescriptive view, this ‘society’ clearly believes in the use of the apostrophe. In contrast to this view ‘Kill the apostrophe’ believes that the use of this punctuation is redundant, a distraction, and wasteful. I take the same view, believing the apostrophe is a waste of people’s time and confusion.

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  9. Victoria Hawkins

    The use of the apostrophe is one much debated and whether to keep the debate is even more commonly debated. This debate recently came to my attention when Waterstones commonly known as Waterstones’s deleted their apostrophe. For me this change did not affect me or arise many emotions this was not the same for others. However, this does not mean I think we should delete the apostrophe, in fact I think it needs to be kept. The idea that the apostrophe is hard to use is simply ridiculous, there are simple rules that even young children can learn so why not adults.

    To abolish the apostrophe is ridiculous, to attempt to read a text without them such as on the Kill the Apostrophe campaign website, just seemed wrong and in fact took longer and meanings had to be worked out. The example Crystal gives about “dot your I’s and cross your t’s” demonstrates the use of the apostrophe clearly. Without the apostrophe we would have to create another piece of punctuation to function in the exact same way and what would be the point in that. Surely it would make more sense to teach a select few how to use them rather than damage English and get rid of them. People discuss how it takes “effort” to learn the rules, well it takes effort to learn to spell but it is a skill that is needed when learning to write such as other grammatical features i.e. the apostrophe. People never complain about the comma or full stop which has equally important functions.

    In short the apostrophe should not be banned.

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  10. Chloe-May Masters

    The matter of apostrophes is a series of huge debates within studying language and its linguistic features. David Crystal, would argue that people have gone this long without it that there is no need to bring it back as we are already sustained. Crystal described that the apostrophe ‘clusters up things’ and argues the ‘rules are not black and white’. This suggests his opinion on how rules can easily be adapted and changed to suit the needs of the population and how people unconsciously change rules for when they are not particularly needed This collection of people see the removal of the apostrophe as a form of grammar ‘abuse’. This allows people to judge and perceive others based on their grammatical usage. I personally think the apostrophe offers some functions for particular people who would notice the deletion but I particularly believe the apostrophe is not worthy of noticing and shouldn’t be cared about due to its lack of effect. As we know as students of Language and the ‘Kill the apostrophe’ campaign also recognises, these ‘rules’ or standards are arbitrary. However, this did not stop a huge uproar when the apostrophe was dropped.

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  11. Imogen Ashford

    Should we abolish the apostrophe?
    The apostrophe rule is one that has long been argued throughout the history of the English language. Those who know how to use it correctly begin to get irritated when used incorrectly, compared to those who have no idea how it should be used, in which is baffles. David Crystal, a descriptivist linguist, argues that the rein of the apostrophe is one that is forever changing similar to the language itself. The whole debate over the ‘Waterstone’s’ / ‘Waterstones’ is one mentioned by Crystal, in which he discusses the reasoning for it is just because times are changing and the language is ever evolving with it, and “rules are not black and white”. Movements like the Kill the apostrophe campaign and the apostrophe protection society are in a constant clash in which one wishes to prevail and either rid, or protect the confusing punctuation mark. As a language student it is understood these rules suggested are arbitrary. Thus confusing the fact that is it even important to keep this small piece of punctuation in the language? Journalists such as David March for the guardian suggest that “the world has not come to the end” with the loss of the apostrophe from the book shop’s name. Which implies that there may not have mean much of an uproar as it seems. In my opinion, however I think the apostrophe is an important piece of punctuation that does not “cluster things up” in the worlds of David Crystal. I believe it is significant to keep so readers can understand the context of a piece of writing, as it shows possession and amounts. Thus, overall, even though there are debates concerning the apostrophe and the supposed hassle it may be to learn to use, I believe it should be kept, and people should just learn the simple rules of thumb surrounding it.

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  12. Matthew Powell

    Should we abolish the apostrophe?

    Apostrophes lie at the forefront of recent linguistic debate: Waterstones’ omitted theirs a few years ago, sparking nationwide ‘outrage’ and lengthy debate over the apostrophe’s place in the language. The decision made by Waterstones’ new managing director James Daunt, who took over the franchise following the original founders of Waterstones, triggered a social media backlash, where a significant amount of people took to Twitter to voice their objection. Even linguistic hero David Crystal, in a Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman, confessed that the misuse of apostrophes just ‘clutters things up these days’ and the rules that such ‘misuse’ disobeys are ‘not black and white’.

    This ‘misuse’, however, is to some extent excusable, as it was the last punctuation mark to be standardised: the apostrophe didn’t get ‘sorted out’ until the 19th Century, whilst the rest have existed since the 16th. Confusion over apostrophe use is, to the more Descriptive, understandable. However, Lyne Truss argues that it’s ‘overuse’ is a sign of it’s endangerment. Truss’ likens apostrophes to Tinker Bell, suggesting, due to their persistent ‘misuse’, they need special treatment in order to cement their place in the language. In contrast, striving for the apostrophe’s demise, the Kill the Apostrophe Campaign provides a more ruthless opinion and gives a list of six reasons explaining their viewpoint: Apostrophes lack semantic purpose, are used as a tool of ‘snobbery’, and actually impede communication and understanding (just to name a few).

    Whatever side of the fence you fall on, the truth to either side seems to remain unclear. Trying to abolish a punctuation mark – or anything linguistic, for that matter – is entirely futile. It cannot be done. So to discuss such a prospect is pointless, a waste of anyone’s time. Even if it were somehow possible to prevent millions of people from using apostrophes, I wouldn’t. They are a valuable part of the language, saving us time working through the ambiguities of apostrophe-free sentences, and their use will continue to change and evolve, as the language does, whether anyone likes it or not.

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  13. Lauren Hart

    The use of the apostrophe has caused many debates and arguments to be developed over a long period of time in the English language. Many opinions have been shared in the media due to recent developments such as the company ‘Waterstones’ removing the apostrophe from their name. Although this caused ‘outrage’ for many people, David Crystal believes that the way in which we speak can be put across in the same way when we write. Therefore, his conclusion on the issue is that the apostrophe is not necessary. On the other hand, organisations such as the ‘Apostrophe Protection Society’ claim that even the misuse of an apostrophe stands as ‘abuse’. These contrasting views form debates that will possibly never be resolved as each side is too set in their ways to change their opinion. Personally, I believe that the apostrophe is important as it allows readers to quickly understand the meaning behind various texts without having to question what the writer has intended to put across. For example, when it is used to display possession, without the apostrophe we wouldn’t be able to figure out whether the writer of the text is referring to one person or more. This could lead to even further confusion than what the apostrophe seems to cause some people in modern times.

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  14. James ward

    The apostrophe was the last of the English punctuation to be introduced and is arguably the most controversial. With websites calling for it to be removed or recording every misuse of it. The whole notion of the apostrophe being used within words to combine them makes the English language a very tricky and quite possibly the most difficult language to learn with even native speakers struggling from time to time.

    An organization wanting to remove it is called the Kill the apostrophe campaign which argues that the apostrophe is ‘Redundant’ and ‘Impede communication and understanding’ which is justifiable from the fact that Waterstone’s removed the apostrophe in their name calling them Waterstones instead which was met with must outrage from people who actually would want to keep the apostrophe as they say that the removal of apostrophe’s would cause the English language to go down as a whole as sooner or later we might not be able to work out what hell and he’ll are as well as other similar style of words such as well and we’ll.

    Overall I think the apostrophe should be kept in the language because having it can avoid confusion in the English language which then would be a drop in standards. Also the fact that the English language is constantly evolving and changing makes it hard to remove one thing from it because it could potentially cause anarchy.

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  15. George Dax

    The apostrophe is a key part of punctuation within the English Language. It serves multiple purposes, we could consider it a multipurpose tool. Should it be abolished, all of these purposes would be lost and written communication may become less coherent and understandable. David Crystal gave a perfect example of this when he mentioned the sentence ‘dot your I’s and cross your t’s’. Should the apostrophes be removed from this sentence, I’s would become ‘is’ and t’s would become an unintelligible ‘ts’. The notion of entirely removing apostrophes from the language is understandable. It solves the issues that many find when stuck deciding when the punctuation is most suitable. It helps to create easily accessible content online. This has been most notably performed by Waterstones through their choice to remove the apostrophe. It smoothens the process of typing in URLS, which almost always contain a minimal amount of punctuation. There is a suggestion, however, that the continued usage of the internet as a mass storage of language use can only speed up the process in which the apostrophe is lost. Much of language use on the internet is fast and efficient. Many people find there is no time to insert apostrophes into their text. Some argue that the lack of evidence in spoken language of an apostrophe sound implies that people still have a general understanding of what the speaker is communicating. Those against apostrophes argue that this case should apply to the written form as well. The crucial element missing from these arguments is that it is not simply a means of communication, but a suggestion of status. Those who correctly punctuate and use grammar efficiently appear more intelligent and provide a more formal persona, something more acceptable in a CV or important document. If the language became universally the same thanks to these people who don’t see the difference between everyday use and the more intellectual use in formal occasions, there would be no way of telling which individual has a greater sense of formality than the other. The apostrophe’s usage will develop naturally, as all of the rest of the language has. To me, it would be a real shame for that to happen, as to me a sense of order and skill in the writing of the language could be simplified and lost.

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  16. Maya Bailey-Probert

    Prescriptivists and descriptivists have had many debates about the misuse of apostrophes and where they should be used. This discussion has developed over the years in English Language and recent opinions have been shared through media. For example, Waterstones has decided to drop the apostrophe in their name and it has caused an ‘outrage’ for a lot of people. David Crystal doesn’t believe that apostrophes are necessary because he says that the way we speak can be put across in the same way in which we write. However, organisations like ‘Apostrophe Protection Society’ think that even the misuse of apostrophes is a form of ‘abuse’ to the English Language and should be stopped. This debate between prescriptivists that want to protect the language and descriptivists that are comfortable with change, possibly may never change or get resolved because each side is determined that their view is the correct view and might not change it. I however think that apostrophes can be annoying when used incorrectly for example ‘pizza’s’, but my view isn’t that strong so I don’t mind if a company decides to change their name because it is their choice and they would have a reason for that. Apostrophes can be helpful in understanding what people mean because they display possession and if they’re not used then the reader could be confused and what the writer is trying to say. Whether he is referring t one person or more. Whereas, in speech, it isn’t recognisable when an apostrophe is used so it shouldn’t matter that some people in their writing misuse them.

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  17. Cam Wainwright

    Should we abolish the Apostrophe from the English language?
    There has been a lot of recent discussion regarding the removal of the apostrophe from language entirely. The linguistic field is rife with discussion as to whether we’re better off with or without it. People believe that without it, there will be confusion amongst possessive pronouns, but is it a valid cause for concern bearing in mind that the apostrophe is arbitrary?
    The debate started when Waterstone’s removed the apostrophe to make it Waterstones – in order to make it more ‘practical’ and in the process creating an uproar amongst edicts and prescriptivists. The prospect of changing language appears to make some people uncomfortable, tweeting “#isnothingsacred”, to show the utter disgust and promoting the idea that language is ‘holy’ and we are ‘blessed’ with it. John Richards believes that is “just plain wrong”, when commenting on the issue, as he is appointed as Chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society and is therefore well educated on the matter; but should we agree or disagree?
    David Marsh contradicts this ideology as he believes that there is ‘punctuation marks in greater need’ – even though he himself was appointed the man behind the first international apostrophe day last year. So with such a cause for concern, why does he seem unfazed by the issue? Because he believes it is the retailers decision and any protest would be futile as it is branding. Whilst Morrisons and Boots eschew using the apostrophe, it’s never caused a conflict amongst linguists until Waterstones intended on doing the same.
    Whilst Marsh doesn’t want to eliminate the apostrophe entirely, there are those whom do – not only this but it is becoming much more popular since the Waterstones ‘predicament’. The webpage http://www.killtheapostrophe.com/ aims to abolish the apostrophe completely but for what cause? They believe that they are wasteful, redundant, tools of snobbery, irrelevant in contemporary technology, impeding in communication and understanding and they are a distraction for otherwise reasonable and intelligent people. They believe that people fail to realise that the apostrophe is arbitrary but yet people feel they are essential as the rule of the apostrophe has been beaten into them.

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  18. Becky Gmerek

    The debate whether apostrophes should be an a addition to our grammar or whether they are not really worth the frenzy all kicked off once the well known book store Waterstone’s decided to get rid of the possessive apostrophe in order to become Waterstones. this obviously caused many linguist enthusiasts to freak and debate this ‘diabolical’ frenzy. Waterstones stated that it is simpler to remove the apostrophe as it causes much less confusion whether depending on the web address or the difficulty that many young people find when having to use apostrophes. the apostrophe protection society said that the matter does not change the orthography of the name yet they ‘are needed in order to aid communication’. some discuss the fact that many who do not use the punctuation mark in fact forget that it is ‘arbitrary’ which is of course just one side of the debate that there ‘IS’ a correct way to using our language and the use of apostrophes. many who stick to the universal understanding and usage of the mark are in fact scared f the consequences when deviating the standard and so stick with it; such as self-reinforcing the ‘loop’. those who believe that us who do not use apostrophes ‘correctly’ are in fact the same as those who believe we represent a falling in the standard of our language and are in fact ‘illiterate people’. To some who believe that the apostrophe is not needed to ensure proper communication is transferred is to their decision yet I believe that they are in fact a necessity in our language to communication the correct tense, purpose and context. The consistency avoids confusion and the decision to remove them is defeatism.

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  19. Molly Bailey

    There has been great discussion on the matter of how necessary the apostrophe is in the modern day. Its signifying of possessives and plurals no doubt has its needs, but is it necessary in all contexts? Waterstones have fuelled this debate through their eliminating of the possessive apostrophe in their name. They asserted that the decision was made due to the convenience that it gave due to changing technology and the inability to put an apostrophe in a web address. Despite this, an article in the Telegraph brings to notice the fact that other companies such as Sainsbury’s and McDonald’s, have managed to retain the use of the apostrophe to signify possession which suggests that actually, there is little reason for the apostrophe to be omitted. The Apostrophe Protection Society has been set up by those attempting to ‘save’ the world from its misuse and the ambiguity of meaning this may cause, but it is becoming increasingly common-place to see people questioning its usage, even going as far as creating the Kill the Apostrophe Website, in which it is suggested that the apostrophe is redundant and time-consuming in a world which doesn’t need it. But does it cause ambiguity when an apostrophe is missed out in words which require them? David Crystal indicates that overtime, attitudes can change, and language can adapt to suit the needs of its users through evolution. This highlights that in the future it may be more widely accepted that the apostrophe may not be needed. Dr Julian Gillen would reinforce Crystal’s view as she believes that the apostrophe is no longer practical, and that history is repeating itself in the sense that language is adapting to the times. Whilst this argument may go on, it is likely that the likes of the Apostrophe Society and John Richards will never have an impact on the use or perceptions of the apostrophe as it will merely evolve with time as language always has done.

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  20. Aimee Walton

    The argument as to whether we should abolish the apostrophe or not has been going on for what seems like forever. As someone who should know how to use the apostrophe I would like to say I could live in a world without them however, I understand that they are still required in standard English. Also the apostrophe can be really helpful when making distinctions between things e.g. ‘its’ and ‘it’s’. Where would we be without that one little apostrophe. However, I also understand why so many want to get rid of them. A world without the apostrophe would be more practical with all the new technology we are living with. We can’t use the apostrophe in URLS or emails so what’s the point of having them in things that are connected to technology. The Kill the Apostrophe website identifies the fact that the apostrophe ‘serves only to annoy those who know how to use it and confuse those who don’t’- this brings the question: why keep them around if no one is entirely happy with them? It is rare to find someone who is not either so overly prescriptivist about this arbitrary rule or is unclear how to use them and hates those who are. David Crystal, a real life linguist, highlights the fact that the apostrophe was the last piece of punctuation to come and they have never settled down. The apostrophe was first used in the 17th century, if it hasn’t settled down by now I doubt it ever will.

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  21. Holly Bailey

    There have many a debate about the apostrophe. Such a miniscule thing has managed to have such an impact on peoples thought processes. Even the likes of David Crystal have joined in on the controversial topic. He feels as though we do not need it in written language. However, the APS (Apostrophe Protection Society) believe that this unique piece of punctuation should be kept safe. There is also a campaign in favour of fully getting rid of the apostrophe – basically wiping it off the face of the Earth. From my perspective, I do feel like the apostrophe causes a lot of unneeded controversy. Some people can be so easily judged on their intellect if they misuse it and when you think about, it really isn’t that much of a big deal. The debate itself was born from the hysteria surrounding the Waterstones tragedy and I understand why people feel so strongly about the situation. Everyone has a passion for something and for some it is the beloved apostrophe. In these circumstances, I’m kind of batting for both teams – in terms of decision making that is. Let’s just say that it’s not going to make me lose sleep at night. Apostrophe or not, the world is still going to keep on turning.

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  22. Isabel Denney-Foster

    Should we abolish the apostrophe?
    Apostrophes, what are they and do we need them? David Crystal suggests that modern society can view apostrophes as a unit of punctuation which can ‘clutter’ the written culture and so people like James Daunt the managing director of Waterstones have come to the conclusion that it is more ‘practical’ to drop the apostrophe to embrace the ever evolving society around us. James Daunt’s reasoning behind dropping the apostrophe is the practicality of producing a URL for the company which is choosing more online forms of distribution. So embracing this change is good for the future of the company right? Wrong. Apostrophe activists such as John Richards believe it is ‘just plain wrong’ as they are being slapdash with their uses of English language. However this prescriptive approach is also adopted by others such as: The Apostrophe Protection Society who agree with enforcing the rules they know as well as creating arbitrary arguments for their forms of use for the ‘endangered species’. On the other hand the mastermind behind the International Apostrophe day would surely be against misuse of the of the apostrophe? No he believes that ‘the world has not come to an end’ because of the removal of the apostrophe from certain brands like Waterstones; for example Boots. Instead he believes we should save the uproar, get used to it and save apostrophes to where they are ‘really needed’. As the culture of our society is changing we should maintain the 150 year old form of punctuation and yet still be perceptive enough to embrace change.

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  23. Charlotte Jefferies

    Should we abolish the apostrophe?

    The apostrophe is one of the greatest debated linguistic feature within the English Language. The loss of an apostrophe from retailer names such as Boots, Morrisons and now Waterstones has further sparked this debate between linguists and journalists such as that of David Crystal. The recent news on the deletion of the apostrophe from Waterstones is a way of adapting the name to the needs of its users, and so applying functional theory. This allows the company name to adapt to the way in which its customers, it is not in fact a means of diminishing the apostrophe.

    Crystal believes that the use of the apostrophe “clutters things up” and that although there may be what appears to be non-standard usage the rules on apostrophes are in fact not “black and white”; some of these non-standard usages actually aid understanding and so are in fact not as non-standard as we thought. Campaigns such as Kill the Apostrophe and The Apostrophe Protection Programme are in a constant battle about the demise of the apostrophe as to whether its existence is wasteful and redundant or if its many uses actually aid understanding. Although the removal of the apostrophe in Waterstones name has influenced this debate the deletion is logical and does not form a basis for the extinction of the apostrophe within the English language. The apostrophe should not be abolished as it allows individuals to distinguish between meanings of words that without the apostrophe may have been misunderstood. Such as the example of Crystal’s: “dot your I’s and cross your t’s”

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  24. Tegan Smith

    Due to the famous chain of bookstores; Waterstones’ recent decision to omit their apostrophe from their title, many people have been left in ‘outrage’. After a recent shift in management James Daunt, the new managing director dropped the apostrophe for institutions title for purpose of improving practicality when using the URL. Being accused of laziness and a part of the hypothetical ‘can’t be arsed’ generation, the controversy has sparked a heated debate in the linguistic field. Having infuriated many, angry tweets are thrown at the company plastering the responsibility for the current decline in our language and the movement to ‘ditch’ the apostrophe.
    Many people were left disgusted with this decision and lead a twitter uproar creating hashtags: #isnothingscared and blaming Waterstones for acting in a grammatically incorrect manner. The people enforcing this opinion only appear to have prescriptive tendencies toward language and feel it is their responsibility to maintain a ‘desired’ standard of English. David Marsh, writing for the Guardian, identifies that Waterstones is not standing alone in this ‘mistake’ as many other institutions such as Boots, Morrisons and now Waterstones and a criticises them for the current ‘mess’ of irregularly punctuated title and causing this on the younger generations confusion towards apostrophes. It is also evident that this decision has aggravated the self-appointed ‘Apostrophe protection society’ sitting at the height of prescriptivism once again identifying this language choice as wrong and incorrect.
    Conflicting arguments are argued by the ‘kill the apostrophe campaign’ who asserts the redundancy of apostrophes and the ‘miniscule’ semantic purpose they serve. Arguing that the apostrophe is more a tool of snobbery rather than a multipurpose tool. They demonstrate a clear opposition between themselves, commonly regarded as descriptivist’s and those who bracket people as illiterate for the misuse of an apostrophe.
    Overall, I believe a frenzy has erupted from nothing other than a language choice to simply the use of a company’s title. I believe there can be no purposeful change decided by one person or group of people as language change is not something that can be actively swayed. As Oliver Kamm said ‘language is like a river which flows through many tributaries’.

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  25. Amy Webley

    The topic of apostrophes has been an ongoing debate in the linguistic field for a number of years. When Waterstones made the decision to drop the apostrophe, many Twitter users believed it was a ‘sad reflection on my dud generation’ and claimed the ‘the decision is more about laziness’. David Crystal argues that the reason behind this is because ‘once you put in rules, people believe you must follow them no matter what’. It isn’t a crucial piece of punctuation; Crystal even points out that the apostrophe was actually the last punctuation mark to be standardised just 150 years ago. Even John Richards, the chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society, agreed that he too would be ‘conserving my energy for the punctuation marks in greater need’. The apostrophe rule is arbitrary, along with a long list of other linguistic ‘rules’. David Crystal points out that the issue with apostrophes is the rules aren’t completely ‘black or white’. Often, people will use apostrophes in plurals e.g. ‘dot the I’s’. If you were following the so-called ‘rules’ of apostrophes, then this wouldn’t make sense, however if the apostrophe wasn’t there then it would say ‘dot the is’ which wouldn’t make sense. I don’t agree that the apostrophe should be abolished. Even though people may argue it’s irrelevant or ‘clutters things’, people couldn’t abolish it even if they wanted to. Crystal agrees with this side of the argument because he said there is ‘too much tradition behind it’.

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  26. Ella

    Should we abolish the apostrophe?

    The rule of the apostrophe is one that has been highly debated over the centuries of its existence in the English language. Waterstones recently dropped their apostrophe giving the reason that it is more suitable for the constraints of the internet. This is a valid point; today’s technology has provided a shift in retailing from stores to online. The apostrophe cannot be used in a URL – if you typed ‘www.sainsbury’s.com’ into your search bar it will probably give the response ‘page not found’. However, many pedants were naturally outraged by this ‘abuse’ of the English language; John Richards – Chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society – stated that it is just ‘plain wrong’. But this is not the first time the omission of an apostrophe has been used in regards to a brand or company name; take Boots for example. Does this cause any real ambiguity in the real world? If, for example, a friend were to send you a text saying ‘Going into Waterstones’ would you be completely thrown off? No. Just as the Guardian explained, the world is not coming to an end. This does not mean, however, that the apostrophe is completely redundant; the apostrophe does still serve many purposes. The Kill the Apostrophe webpage argues that apostrophes can be omitted from the entire language with no repercussions; this is just not true. Despite the context, reading ‘we’re’ and ‘were’ are completely different words and mixing the two will cause confusion; the same applies to ‘I’ll’ and ‘ill’. In conclusion, what Waterstones (or Waterstone’s) does with its apostrophe is completely irrelevant – we all still understand what is being communicated. In fact this entire debate is futile; words and punctuation cannot be ‘abolished’, apostrophes cannot be ‘protected’ or ‘killed’. Language change is controlled by usage not rules.

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  27. Charlie McGowan

    The apostrophe baffles many people as although some people use them correctly, many people do not understand where they are supposed to use them and some people just throw them into a word because they think it looks right. Waterstones decided to drop the apostrophe out of their title to keep up with the progressing language due to the internet. Some people want to abolish the apostrophe completely from the English Language because they believe that it causes unnecessary confusion for people who try to uses them. However other people want to protect the apostrophe and believe that it is a vital part of the language and they believe that people just need to become more understanding of apostrophes and when they should be used. Oliver Kamm said ‘language is like a river which flows through many arbitraries’. He suggests that the language is constantly changing whether it is for the good or worse but this language change is inevitable because language changes more because of the usage by people and not because of the rules. Although people are trying to abolish the apostrophe, this is pointless because although companies such as Boots and Waterstones have had them removed and we might start to see more companies do this in the future, they will never be removed from the language completely.

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