Wick Communications

Possessive about punctuation

In Writing on 18 Jan 2012 at 11:54 am

This is easily the best story of the week. I love it first because it’s about a bookstore in England and what’s not to like about that? Secondly, will you look at the subhead: We should be more possessive about our punctuation, whatever ‘Waterstones’ thinks. (It reminds me of another favorite, in the Wall Street Journal, about whether yoga is a proper workout: “Is yoga posing as exercise?” God bless the subhead as the perfect place for a pun.)

Lastly, I like it because this is a story about how much we continue to care about the English language and the things that are done to it in order to wedge it into the worldwide web, which is ironic because you would think there would be plenty of room for apostrophes there.

I don’t really have much to say about the controversy over there. Essentially, Waterstones simply changed its name. It is no longer the business owned by Waterstone, in my opinion. Fine by me. I guess I’ll be calling Ron Artest Metta World Peace now, too, not that I expect his name to come up much in my house.

It is true, however, that even good writers have lots of problems with apostrophes. It’s pretty simple. The object of that “s” at the end is either possessive or plural.

Anyway, this is a lovely story in the Telegraph. It ends like this. …

…whatever the URL says, there is always going to be a little missing step before the s, not quite a glottal stop, not quite a breath; just the silent fragment of time that marks a missing apostrophe.

— Clay



  1. Thank you, Clay. The apostrophe (notice I avoid pluralizing) has been an area of ambiguity for me. The origins of which are from a distracted teenage mind and later, a somewhat lazy adult one. Add a bit of a non conformist who likes to generalize and guesstimate and I’ve failed miserably at trying to conceal it! Oh well, I suppose there’s still hope for me. I love language, accuracy and learning and at least I’m not a professional writer but that’s no excuse. I’ll re-read the article a coupe of times, and just maybe be on my way to apostrophizing correctly!

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