Waterstones and Apostrophes: Battered on All Fonts

In What's the Buzz by Roger Tagholm

By Roger Tagholm

Fabulous! A whole debate about an apostrophe! The Brits eccentric? How dare you! If you’ve missed it, the UK trade is agonizing over Waterstone’s (sorry, Waterstones’) decision to drop the apostrophe from its name. New MD James Daunt thinks that in a digital world of URLs and e-mail addresses, Waterstones without an apostrophe is “a more versatile and practical spelling.” (Hey, Publishers Weekly has been sans an apostrophe forever…)

One can see his point, but you’ve got to feel sorry for these tiny bits of type. They’re battered on all fonts. The unstoppable rise of texting means that many people abandoned them long ago. Teenagers say that apostrophes are something that only their parents use — like e-mail. But a good many parents have let them drop too. And don’t even ask about semi-colons.

Right now McDonald’s must be looking at its signs and thinking: “Do we need that little fella? What a waste.” Just what Waterstones plans to do with its spare apostrophes remains to be seen. Three for two? No, they’ve ditched that. Put in brackets and sold in bundles? Boxed-up with the returns?

A solution might come from an unlikely corner. Cormac McCarthy might put in an offer for them – surprisingly, those little forgotten flecks are the one piece of punctuation he likes.

And sorry about the logo at the right, we just dont, errrr, don’t have the updated one just yet.

About the Author

Roger Tagholm


Roger Tagholm is based in London and has been writing about the book industry for more than 20 years. He is the former Deputy Editor of Publishing News and the author of Walking Literary London (New Holland) and Poems NOT on the Underground (Windrush Press).