Wednesday, 14th January 2015

by Joshua Gaskell

It’s clear that the online world and ‘digital-first’ publications like the Guardian increasingly see copy containing correct punctuation and typographical emphases as being outdated, cluttered-looking onscreen, time-consuming to produce, and in a vague sense elitist. It occurs to me that in the last of these the apostrophe is the worst offender, since one of its two primary uses is to denote possession and in so doing, when inserted before the ess, to hierarchise the many into one.

For example, I’ve complained before about Kings Cross for King’s Cross, but perhaps rather than sloppiness it reflects a democratic wish that the crossroads may belong to no one and that we may all be kings! And at the other end of the spectrum from unpunctuated digi-chic is the greengrocer’s apostrophe, which maybe, compared to the tyranny of the professional punctuationist’s, does no harm. Pear’s 30p a pound