Let's hear it for the comma in the sky

There was a great story in my local paper last week about a former sub-editor who is appearing in the 2015 Dull Men’s Club calendar.

Former Argus man John Richards, 91, founded the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001. His aim is to preserve “the correct use of this currently much abused punctuation mark in all forms of text written in the English language.”

Apparently, this ranks on a par with the president of the UK Roundabout Appreciation Society, a chap who collects traffic cones and a man who photographs hedges. All of these appear alongside John on the calendar.

But I don’t think John is boring – and nor it appears do the 1,751,644 people who have visited his site so far. There are thousands of threads discussing apostrophes, with examples of misuse and advice about how and when to use those pesky commas in the sky.

Apostrophes seem to cause a lot of confusion, but aren’t actually hard to grasp once you sit down and consider what their job is (which is to highlight that something is missing or to show possession).

We cover apostrophes on Sentence Works courses, with explanations, examples and a lively game of “pin the apostrophe on the board”. 

Many people are foxed by apostrophes in plurals but the rule is simple – put the apostrophe after the person/ people  you  are referring to. So it’s the men’s race, not the mens’ race, because it is the race of the men, not the race of the mens!

I read an interesting debate on Mumsnet yesterday when a single parent objected to being invited to parents’ evening because her child had one parent and she thought it should be parent’s evening. However, as others pointed out, it was an evening for parents in general, hence the use of the plural form.

The Argus story is here (ironically the apostrophe is lost in the link)

http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/11529110.I___m_eccentric__not_dull__says_apostrophe_fan/

The wonderful, not remotely dull Apostrophe Protection Society can be found here

http://www.apostrophe.org.uk/