Devon council bans apostrophes in street signs

It’s easy to get apostrophes right, so let’s get them right

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The meaning of words is almost always perfectly clear without apostrophes.

It really does not matter whether Bakers Close takes its name from one baker or more. The only ambiguity that might bother us would be if the sign were actually a warning, “Baker’s Close”, meaning “the baker is close”, although we can agree that this is unlikely.

But we have apostrophes in our written language and – although we can dispense with them on signs and Waterstones is allowed to call itself what it wants – it’s pointless to complain about them.

Yes, they are a trap for the inattentive and an incitement to snobbishness, but that’s life. Get them right and people will think that you are clever. Something belongs to someone or something. Baker’s. Or to lots of things. Bakers’. Except things that belong to pronouns. Its, theirs, hers. Or letters have been left out. It’s, don’t, can’t. We don’t need them. But it’s easy to get them right.

So let’s get them right.

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