The Apostrophe's Lament

April 2, 2013

When I’m at the 2nd floor service desk at Evanston Public Library, I can look up to left and see a sign high up on the wall stating that this is the Reader’s Services department. That apostrophe–whether it belongs or not–was seriously debated when the signageapostrophe for the library was in planning. One could argue it both ways.  As it stands, it’s an individualized sense of “reader.” You’re the reader and these services yours. Or, take out the apostrophe and “readers” can be simple plural standing as an adjective for “services.” I don’t think anyone lost any sleep over the final decision, and even though we often refer to our department now as Adult Services, I believe the apostrophe in this case is not high on any official’s list of things to fret about. Not so in England apparently. According to this Chicago Tribune article from March 29th, a huge outcry of protest has arisen with regard to Mid Devon’s district council proposal to ban all apostrophes on place names and road signs. Britons reacted strongly voicing their dismay at such grammatical apostacy. As the article states, this is not the first threat to the nation’s apostrophes. Last summer there was a kerfuffle over the venerable bookstore Waterstone’s dumping their apostrophe.  And, leave it to the British to have an Apostrophe Protection Society, founded twelve years ago by John Richards, a former newspaper copy editor, who says that his popular website, has had more than 1.6 million visitors. So, sticklers, take heart! There appears to be a great many of us who do care about the state of our language.

Barbara L.


Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.

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