All hail the Apostrophiser – and here’s the reason why

PUBLISHED: 08:00 05 April 2017 | UPDATED: 14:25 06 April 2017

A sign being corrected by self-confessed

A sign being corrected by self-confessed "grammar vigilante" who has been secretly correcting bad punctuation on street signs and shop fronts in Bristol for more than a decade. Picture: BBC News/PA Wire

Opinion: Rachel Moore hails the Apostrophiser, the ‘Banksy of punctuation’.

To too many people, it’s an irrelevant fleck, a trivial floating dot cluttering up a word.

Bothering about a missing apostrophe – or one that has made an unwelcome invasion into a word – is shrugged off as an anally-retentive fuss over nothing. It’s hardly mass murder, is it? It’s just an apostrophe. Get over it.

But an apostrophe is never a “just”. Wrongly, or not using one at all, might not constitute a crime against humanity - no one died, after all – but it is a clear case of right and wrong, black and white.

Apostrophes aren’t an affectation or optional. It was invented for good reason, to make sense of the written word.

It might be a troublesome pest, and an elusive concept to so many, befuddled by whether it’s its or it’s, your and you’re or they’re and their, but it is a bedrock of punctuation.

Without it, and its sister the comma, a sentence becomes an impossible to navigate jumble and written communication risks crumbling into a nonsensical string of words.

If the poor old apostrophe was in a predicament before, the last decade of social media has seriously threatened its survival.

Why take up vital characters on Twitter for it? Everyone knows what you mean without it.

But in an on-line world that demands accuracy - miss a dot or dash in an email address, a website link and you’re in trouble – it’s bewildering why we don’t all try harder with the apostrophe.

We cringe to see ‘Tea’s and Coffee’s’ signs at Jims café, open Monday’s to Friday’s, but we’re all too polite to point it out to the serial offender.

Now one apostrophe vigilante has made himself the Banksy of punctuation by striking in the dead of night to right wrongs on signs with his bespoke tool, the Apostrophiser, a specially-adapted broom handle with sponges and stickers to put right apostrophe crimes when everyone is asleep.

For those used willy nilly, he colour matches his sticky cover-up so one will even notice. He size- and colour-matches the ones he adds, as he wages war on the lackadaisical use, which he says is a bad example to children and threatening its extinction, risking us collapsing into apostrophe anarchy.

When BBC Radio 4 revealed his crusade this week, he received a standing ovation from new devout supporters the length and breadth of the country.

Why has no one else been so brave, choosing to flinch, cringe and point in private at flagrant flouting of the basic punctuation law or ignorance?

There’s no real excuse for not knowing the basic rules. It’s hardly a complicated formula.

And in the whole scheme of world wrongs, getting hot under the collar about a missing or wrongly-placed apostrophe might seem petty.

But Castle Motor’s, Steves haircut’s etc etc makes us look like an uneducated nation, confusing children and perpetuating the plain wrong.

Correcting mistake is neither patronising or intellectual snobbery. You’d tell someone if her skirt was tucked in her knickers or if she had lipstick on her teeth. Tell her if her sign is wrong.

The crusader isn’t a vandal or rude; he’s protecting the English language for the greater good and spreading the love.

We should all support his mission and put the apostrophe back where it belongs.

And don’t get me started on the increasing use of ‘yous’ where you does just fine.

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