Grammarians rejoice as English town drops apostrophe ban

After an outcry from grammar purists around the world, a district in England has reversed its decision to remove apostrophes on local street signs.

Founder of Apostrophe Protection Society calls ban 'appalling'

An English local government has reversed a decision to stop using apostrophes in its street signs after Britain's self-appointed guardians of the English language expressed outrage. (David Jones/PA/Associated Press)

A district in England made headlines last week when it announced plans to drop the apostrophe on local street signs in order to "avoid confusion" on GPS systems.

But after an outcry from grammar purists around the world, the Mid Devon council reversed its decision Monday, the U.K. Times reports.

One of the people who led the charge to save the punctuation mark is John Richards, founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society in England.

Richards, who called the district's ban on apostrophes "appalling," said he made an appeal to the Mid Devon council and argued that trying to avoid confusion on GPS systems should not be done at the expense of proper grammar.

"I merely told them how disappointed I was and I was sorry at their disregard of English grammar," Richards told Carol Off, host of CBC Radio's As It Happens.

"I also pointed out it set a bad example for local children who were being taught about apostrophes in local schools. What would they say? 'Why should I bother about apostrophes? The council doesn't,'" he said.

Richards, a retired journalist, founded the Apostrophe Protection Society after years of correcting the mistake in copy written by reporters.

"I found it so irritating that when I retired, I started this Apostrophe Protection Society and was rather surprised at how well it was received," he said, adding that he has received emails from people in over 50 countries supporting his apostrophe advocacy.

He has taken on causes large and small — from writing to Birmingham officials after the city decided to ban apostrophes on road signs last year to pointing out errors at local businesses.

"When I pointed out a local café had 'teas' engraved on their window T-E-A-apostrophe-S, the owner said, 'Well, that's the way I like it,'" Richards said. "You can't do anything about that."

While Richards has devoted most of his attention to the apostrophe, he says there are a few other grammatical mistakes that irk him.

"I don't like the way hyphens are being dropped now," he said. "I don't like the way people don't use commas properly. In fact, someone wrote to me and said could I start a Comma Protection Society?"