Apostrophe Protection Society!

February 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

The  wham-bam, willy-nilly use and abuse of apostrophes drives me bonkers. It seems every day I see another way in which the poor little mite is mangled: either unnecessarily heaved into a made-up word (like RT’s or CD’s) or left out of ‘your’ or ‘its’ just at thewrong moment. The apostrophe must be the most badly taught and misunderstood piece of punctuation in the English language – or don’t people care?

Well, I’ve just found someone who does. He runs the Apostrophe Protection Society (I can sleep better at night now knowing there is one) and the good man dedicates his life to teachingapostrophe good practice. After a lifetime in journalism, John Richards decided in retirement to set up a website on the subject of his pet peeve, the apostrophe and, more specifically, the abuse of it. He thought a few like-minded people might respond but within a month had more than 500 letters of support from folk all over the globe. Eleven years later, the APS is still going strong.

Which brings me to the rules. Is it because they’re so simple that some people try to over-complicate them?

Apostrophes are used to denote:

  1. A contraction or missing letter: don’t, haven’t, won’t, it’s.
  2. Possession: Bowler Hat’s website, a month’s rent

And that’s it!

Apostrophes have nothing to do with plurals so CD’s, RT’s, GP’s, sofa’s, for example, are all wrong because those words were intended to denote more than one of the items. I saw those particular mistakes recently in a variety of places (one is obviously Twitter) but there are also many good apostrophe-catastophes on the APS website. I would have thought they’d all come from cheap and cheerful street vendors or retail outlets but you’d be surprised: check out the errors from the BBC, Facebook and several district councils.

Some of the mistakes you see there are really cringeworthy: not so much the ‘Honk if your Horny’ handwritten notice which can easily be corrected with a flick of the pen but more the ‘ALL BLACK’S’ printed tee-shirt – how much would it have cost to recall that run? And, of course, if those on Twitter remove the apostrophe from their RT’s it gives them one more character to play with in their tweets. That’s never a bad thing when you have a limit of 140 characters but it makes perfect sense if it’s actually correct.

This is a true story

February 2, 2012 § 1 Comment

Storytelling is what brought me into the world of journalism. Storytelling is what keeps me writing and storytelling is what works in terms of catching and keeping a reader’s attention.

Once upon a long while ago, when I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do with my life, I read a newspaper report about the killing of a young newspaper boy. What was remarkable about that story was the way it was written. I was tearful by the time I finished it and decided that writing stories was what I wanted to do with my life. That is, I wanted to write stories that could move a reader in the way that story had moved me.

If it that sounds a bit dramatic, I probably was at the time. It’s true that now I don’t tend to write stories that make people cry! But I still believe that stories have a force that can move their reader. Everybody has a story to tell and I make it my job to find that story and write it in a way that the reader wants to hear.

If you tell your target audience you’re the best in your field they probably won’t take much notice because they’ve heard it all before. Same if you say you’re offering best value. Same if you tell them they need you. You’ve got to do better than that to get their attention because your competitors are saying pretty similar stuff. You need a differentiator to get them to know you, to like you, to trust you and to buy you.

Your story is going to make the difference and set you apart from the rest. Storytelling is the key to communicating with your customers.


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