Errant apostrophe use has become one of the great scourges of our times.
And now, one of the men charged with upholding the sacrosanct rule has admitted defeat – citing society’s “ignorance and laziness”.
The 96-year-old retired journalist John Richards founded the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001, declaring war on advertisers, journalists and citizens alike for their grammatical shortcomings.
And he set out its usage with three easy-to-follow rules: To denote a missing letter, to denote a possession, and most importantly, to never denote plurals.
But the former newspaper sub-editor’s pedantic ways never broke into the mainstream, forcing the disbandment of his society 18 years later.
“There are two reasons for this.” Mr Richards wrote on his website.
“One is that at 96 I am cutting back on my commitments and the second is that fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English language.
“We, and our many supporters worldwide, have done our best, but the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!”
However, news of Mr Richards’ impending retirement quickly spread.
A wave of newly enlightened internet users caused a 600-fold increase in his website’s traffic, forcing an impromptu shutdown because of the resulting website maintenance costs.
The merit of the apostrophe in modern society has long been debated, and heightened in recent times in concurrence with shorthand texting.
And some experts have suggested doing away with the punctuation mark altogether, citing general confusion and the fact the English language could experience little to no ill effect.
But with the fiercest defender of the humble apostrophe now bringing his campaign to a full stop, the responsibility to protect the world from one of grammar’s greatest sins is now ours to bear.