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Hold on, apostrophes! Help is on the way

Rosie Right

Rosie's friend Elizabeth Cogar inspired her a while ago to write about the sloppiness of incorrectly used apostrophes, as in car's for sale, or words' misused. We have all seen these errors in signs and in print stories and ads.

Now, the New York Times has reported (June 16) that in Boston, England, retired copy editor John Richards has let his irritation at those ubiquitous apostrophes lead him into action that, according to the Times, has made him famous.

Writes the Times: "'It's irritated me for years and years,' Mr. Richards … said of public apostrophe misuse. … A few weeks ago, he decided to put his irritation to work under the auspices of his newly formed Apostrophe Protection Society (number of charter members: two, Mr. Richards and his son, Stephen)."

He began delivering a form letter of reproof to offending businesses in the area. Although the businesses quite predictably resented the communication, a story in the newspaper The Telegraph gained him 257 members.

Apparently, there are many in the United State, also, who want to protect the apostrophe. In response to the New York Times story, there have been letters to that newspaper from readers who suggest that "Apostrophes should be protected under the Endangered Species Act" (Phil Fisher, Cincinnati), or that Mr. Richards "should never tour the United States. The poor fellow will have a nervous breakdown" (William M. Ringle, McLean, Va.). Writing of a house in front of which he saw the sign "The Robinson's," William S. Kilborne of Fort Worth concludes:

"The occupants are giving us two pieces of information, one intended, one not. We learn that some people named Robinson live at that address; we also learn that the Robinsons are illiterate."

Let's all be careful about how we use those wonderful little squiggles — apostrophe's.

From the Word Spy: Text-message injury (noun): A form of repetitive stress injury caused by excessive use of the thumb to type text messages into a mobile phone.

Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825, letter (1707 Summit Ave., Suite 201, Richmond, Va. 23230, fax (355-9089) or e-mail

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