Grammatically Speaking

Louisa Jarvis, account director, Clarion Communications, part of the WPP Group

Not since the advent of text messages, which encouraged the mass abandonment of punctuation and replacement of vowels with numbers (gr8!), has such a stir been caused around the near-sacrosanct topic of English Grammar.  For Waterstone's - that high street hotbed of learning and literature - has given up on its humble apostrophe.

That's right. Or should I say, thats right. Apparently the apostrophe is no longer relevant to one of the UK's leading bookshops, nor - they say - their consumers, for whom the apostrophe is no longer 'practical' in the age of the internet and email.

Now, I love a good apostrophe and I'm not afraid to admit it. (McDonald's - ooh! Sainsbury's - ahh!)  But this isn't just about the apostrophe. This is about an established brand changing its name (plus nationwide signage, branding, stationery...this is no cheap decision) to move with the times - and with the increasing consumer apathy towards grammar.

Will it change perceptions of the brand? Probably not. Will anyone even notice? Almost certainly not. But for me, that small, almost insignificant dash, that strategically-placed jot of ink, is the difference between the personal, familiar Waterstone's - the high street book business once owned by Tim Waterstone - and Waterstones. The brand. The cold, faceless chain of stores. The Woolworths of the literary world.

And we all know where Woolworths ended up.

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