Seeing communication sense


A great example of an apostrophe ‘gone wrong’ on a poster in a toy shop window.

The art of communication may be alive and well in some parts of the country, but possibly not in Mid-Devon, depending on how the district council votes on 28 March.  A recent decision to ban the use of apostrophes in street signs caused much consternation amongst many journalists, MPs and English language purists; and amongst those of us who value the ability to communicate clearly and unambiguously.

No doubt the panda that ‘eats, shoots and leaves’ would have something to contribute to the debate on the attempted assassination of the apostrophe!  It’s just too confusing, argues the Mid-Devon council, thus the only solution, obviously, is to remove the grammatical symbol altogether – simples.

Given the number of signs in shop windows that confirm this evident confusion (or should that be ignorance?), exorcising the floating comma from public view is the only option…if we want to succumb to the lowest common denominator and regress to grunting apes.

When did communicating clearly become such a challenge?  When did accuracy become optional?  And when did we all become just so damn lazy that we decided to ignore the fundamental parts of language we found inconvenient?

Unfortunately, the apostrophe debacle is symptomatic of a wider malaise with regard to language.  Once upon a time we learned how to communicate in different ways according to the context and audience, adapting as appropriate.  Now it seems texts and tweets rule supreme and standard English, even where it should be king (or queen), has been relegated to the too-complicated-to-bother-with league.

If punctuation exists to avoid confusion, isn’t it worth the effort to learn how to use it properly?  Come on Mid-Devon, you know it makes good communication sense!

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