To: John Richards, chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society

Re: Grabbing the torch from your falling hands

I was saddened to learn that you have decided to disband your society, which you established some 20 years ago in your native England in an attempt to save an endangered species: the properly used apostrophe. You are 96, and you say that after years of trying, you are giving up. You are discouraged, you say, by the “ignorance and laziness” of modern usage.

I, too, am discouraged, sir, but I will not let your fine work die through despair. I am herein applying to you for the job of curator of your organization; should you decline, which is your right, I will create my own organization with a possibly trademark-infringing name — say, the Apostrophe Protectin’ Society. I feel that strongly about it.

It’d’ve been great if we had met before now. (See what I did there? Two apostrophes in one word, used correctly!) I know you Brits have “fo’c’s’les” on your boats, which is just trebly dandy, but fo’c’s’les’ve been pretty much eliminated in American English. My point is, I am a zealot, and I know you respect that.

I am sure you are far better at this game than I am, and, after all, as we both know, in the end this is not a game at all. The abuse of the apostrophe by nitwits has been going on for quite some time. Few errors of punctuation so succinctly reveal the utter illiteracy of the perpetrators. The sins have been escalating of late, metastasized by the so-called spontaneity of social media. You could collect one day’s examples of the use of “your” instead of “you’re” and turn it into a book the thickness of “The Brothers Karamazov,” which, by the way, returns 90,000 Google hits when spelled “The Brother’s Karamazov.” You and I have both seen “no dog’s allowed” signs and “We are closed on Monday’s” and “We Beat All Our Competitors Tire Prices” and a “Chivalry Is’nt Dead” shoulder tattoo and (arguably the greatest ever) an elegant signboard outside a sign-making shop, advertising their professionally lettered “Sign’s.”

Among impromptu examples, the most spectacular was a handheld placard once observed at a protest rally against President George W. Bush: “Somewhere in Texas a Village is Missing I’ts Idiot.”

But I digress.

My point is that if you graciously allow me to continue your work, I will not let you down. I will — and I am using lamentably cliched sports language — “take it to the next level.” I will not stop at apostrophes. The society will branch out, with subdivisions. Here are just a few:

The Jig Is Up Not the Gig Is Up Society.

The You’ve Got Another Think Not Thing Coming Society.

The Don’t Write T-Shirt With a Lowercase t Because That Is Not the Shape of a T-Shirt Society.

The A Ticket Stub Is Not a Momento It Is a Memento You Moron Society.

The No One Cares About the Oxford Comma Society.

The Don’t Pronounce the “T” in “Often” Society.

The I Am Not a Grammar Nazi I Am the Last Bulwark of Civilization Society.

Email Gene Weingarten at weingarten@washpost.com. Find chats and updates at washingtonpost.com/magazine.

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