In this age of apathy (and dropping book sales), it’s great to know how to get the great British public to sit up and pay attention: drop an apostrophe.
Until today, who knew that there was an Apostrophe Protection Society? “It’s just plain wrong.” Mourned its chairman, John Richards. “It’s grammatically incorrect. If Sainsbury’s and McDonald’s can get it right, then why can’t Waterstones? You would really hope that a bookshop is the last place to be so slapdash with English.”
Harry Bingham of the Writers’ Workshop says in his advice to authors that, when considering manuscripts, misuse of apostrophe is ‘the sort of thing which will have most (literary) agents screaming in frustration and hurling your book into the far corner of the room. They are simple beasts, so get them right.’ Not so simple, as advertising boards everywhere attest. Lynne Truss managed to profit very nicely from correcting common misperceptions. Her Eats shoots and leaves remains the most entertaining offering available on grammar (although for correct application of words, cast aside your dictionary and reach for Bill Bryson’s Troublesome Words).
James Daunt, the managing director, who took over the chain of bookstores last year defended the move, saying: “Waterstones without an apostrophe is, in a digital world of URLs and email addresses, a more versatile and practical spelling. It also reflects an altogether truer picture of our business today which, while created by one, is now built on the continued contribution of thousands of individual booksellers.”
Twitter users were quick to fight back, pointing out that, if the new logo really was meant to reflect the contribution of many, it should include an apostrophe after the ‘s’.
The real genius of this move is clearly not to benefit people struggling to search for a bookstore online. I have never found the presence of an apostrophe a hindrence. Type ‘Wa’ and Google’s top suggestion is ‘Washington,’ but add a ‘t’ and the immediate suggestion is Waterstones, right before Watch Movies Online. No: suddenly everyone is talking about a bookstore. Everyone is Googling a bookstore. There is free publicity on Breakfast television. Radio 4. Numerous newspaper headlines. And talking about a bookstore is only one small step (or click) away from buying a book. Mr Daunt, I salute you.