Any news writing service provider will note the that the title of this article is wrong; lacking the apostrophe to denote a move made by Cambridge council. However, with it becoming the latest local authority to drop apostrophes on its signs, campaigners are hitting out at falling standards in punctuation.
The Plain English Campaign’s Steve Jenner has said:
“A lot of the councils that decided to drop the apostrophe on road signs are also responsible for delivering education in these areas, so in schools we have teachers explaining to students how to use apostrophes and then we’re saying ‘oh well in certain contexts it’s perfectly OK to ignore them’.”
Responding to the claims that not adding punctuation to street signs is a threat to learning, Cambridge City Council said:
“It was decided that in order to avoid potential confusion over incorrectly punctuated street names that the use of the apostrophe would no longer be used on new street name plates in Cambridge.”
The spokesman said it was in accordance with the latest national policy guidelines, as published in the National Land and Property Gazetteer.
There have also been suggestions that not punctuating road signage aids the emergency services. However, when Sky News asked the question of Cambridge fire and ambulance services, both said there would be no difference.
The dropping of the apostrophe is not new though.
Five years ago, Birmingham City Council outlawed the practice of apostrophising road signs. The leafy square with St. Paul’s Church at its centre is now apparently in commemoration of all the Saint Pauls there have ever been.
In Cambridge though, all those Pauls have some allies; all across the city, ‘punctuationists’ have started manually adding the apostrophes.