Why we can’t leave the apostrophe for dead

By Susan Richter, Marketing Communications Manager

It’s official. The Apostrophe Protection Society, founded in 2001, has shut down; largely due to apathy if its founder, retired journalist John Richards, is to be believed. And yes, it is easy to believe because as a copywriter, it’s one of the things I notice; the misuse of the apostrophe (never for plurals!) or leaving it out completely.

Image credit: Thoughtco

Some, including a linguistic expert, think the death of the apostrophe is a good thing. It’s like our appendix. Who needs it anyway?

Of course, I beg to differ. As a writer, a language lover, and a bit of a pedant, the apostrophe has to stay.

Here’s why.

Apathy or laziness?

The linguistic expert mentioned above says too , misuse of the apostrophe is used to show up people with lower intelligence: “A good grasp of apostrophe use says more about your ability to remember inconsistent patterns than it does about your intelligence.”

I don’t think it’s an intelligence issue. I think it’s about laziness. With shortcuts for everything, are we simply too lazy to remember (or learn) what correct grammar and punctuation look like? And why should we bother when we have autocorrect functionality on our phones, built-in grammar checks on Word and upcoming generations that text in code?

We should bother because details matter and we (writers, at least) don’t want to get replaced by robots.

But that’s a topic for another blog.

Evolution or devolution?

Looking at language in general, it’s true that English has evolved and continues to change with use, influenced by other languages, slang and a new generation that could shorten this blog to 280 characters.

Just think about the new words we’ve added this year alone like “bigsie”, “e-bike” and “skunked”. There are also words we don’t use anymore and not ones like “shininicked” (benumbed and paralysed with fear) or “loitersacke” (a lazy, loitering fellow), but words like “whilst” or “thus” or “henceforth”.

We’ve also relaxed a lot when it comes to style itself, like starting sentences with conjunctions like “and” or “but”. I’ve done it in this blog.

But (see, I’ve done it again), where do we draw the line on what gets discarded? Could we ever get rid of other punctuation like the full stop? Then every single piece of written content would resemble a Facebook rant, just minus the emojis (another new word). The same can be said of the comma. This little mark is often overused or not used at all — and if we got rid of it (shudder) it would be a gamble each time we wrote something that the meaning would be properly conveyed. Just consider:

“Let’s eat Grandma.” vs “Let’s eat, Grandma.”

I’m going to leave that there.

Language is fluid. I accept that. But there should be some guidelines we still stick to, because it’s a slippery slope. First, we dismiss the apostrophe, then the comma, the em dash (my personal favourite) and then the fullstop.

& thn in 10yrs tm well all b tking lke ths if we rnt alrdy.