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Road signs in Cambridge see apostrophes dropped

John Murray

A council in the East Midlands has irked keen grammarians by removing the apostrophes from new road signs in order to “avoid potential confusion”.

Despite the city’s synonymy with learning and education, Cambridge City Council has opted to break grammatical rules by ditching the possessive apostrophes on signs for roads with names like Scholars’ Walk, King’s Parade and St. Paul’s Square.

The council claims that the National Land and Property Gazetteer advises to ditch flying commas from road names and also argues that they make it more difficult for the emergency services to locate addresses. Sky News, however, is reporting that it has been in touch with fire and ambulances services in the area and they have denied that apostrophes hinder them in determining locations.

A statement from the Council explains:

“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 move has not been warmly welcomed by the likes of Plain English Campaign spokesperson Steve Jenner. Speaking to Sky News, he argued that local councils play a significant role in education, and are therefore setting poor examples by neglecting apostrophes.

Nevertheless, Cambridge is not the first city to make such a move. Apostrophes have also been shunned by Birmingham sign-makers as of 2009, and East Staffordshire is another council to have jettisoned them. High street retailers like Waterstones, Morrisons and Boots also now emblazon their names and logos free of apostrophes

Moves by Mid Devon Council to follow suit were dropped due to an angry response, however, and with grammatical graffitists reportedly even taking it upon themselves to add apostrophes to signs where they feel necessary, it is clear that businesses and organisations need to think very carefully about public response before they commit to breaking grammatical convention.

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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