Because of the widespread misuse of the “much-abused” apostrophe, a society whose sole goal is to protect the punctuation mark has finally given up, after almost two decades of operations.
The Apostrophe Protection Society’s founder John Richards, a retired journalist, has put down his pen and admitted defeat in the fight for the correct use of the apostrophe because “ignorance and laziness” has won.
Richards, now 96 years old, cited two reasons for the society’s disbandment: first, he is 96, and second, because people are now caring less and less for the apostrophe.
“Fewer organizations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English language,” Richards said in a statement posted on the group’s website last Sunday, Dec. 1.
“We, and our many supporters worldwide, have done our best but the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!” he added.
Richards started the society in 2001 after retiring from journalism. In his bio on the society’s website, it is stated that Richards used to be a sub-editor for a publication, whose job “was correcting grammatical errors and, in particular, adding, deleting or moving apostrophes.”
It “amazed” Richards how often journalists, especially the young ones, “seemed to have no idea of the correct use of this very useful little device.”
His “irritation” from the misuse of his beloved punctuation mark then led him to form the society, in the hopes of finding “half a dozen like-minded people.”
“I didn’t find half a dozen people,” he admitted. “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!”
The now-disbanded society had three simple rules concerning the use of apostrophes: (1) they are used to denote a missing letter or letters; (2) they are used to denote possession; and (3) that apostrophes are never ever used to denote plurals.
In 2001, Richards received the satirical Ig Nobel Peace Prize for Literature “for his efforts to protect, promote, and defend the differences between plural and possessive.” JB