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Former sub delivers grammar message to a new audience

As a retired sub-editor, John Richards has spent much of his working life correcting the spelling and grammar of newspaper reporters.

Deciding not to let his excellent command of the English language, and his 30-plus years in regional journalism go to waste, he is now turning his efforts to local shopkeepers.

The incorrect use of English has irritated Mr Richards for a long time – especially the incorrect use of apostrophes.

But a few weeks ago his irritation reached “boiling point” and he decided to do something about it – forming the Apostrophe Protection Society.

With the aim of correcting misuse wherever it occurs, Mr Richards, (75), now delivers a polite letter on headed Apostrophe Protection Society notepaper through the door of anyone he finds breaking the rules in Boston, Lincs, where he lives.

He said: “It is something that has been irritating me for a long time.

“I walk around town and see so many misplaced or omitted apostrophes it beggars belief. The local fruiterer sells pounds of banana’s, the public library, of all places, had a sign saying CD’s – even Tesco was promising 1000’s of products at reduced prices.”

Mr Richards honed his craft while working on regional newspapers such as the Brighton Evening Argus, Reading Evening Post, Nottingham Evening Post, West Sussex Gazette and West Sussex County Times.

Not everyone has welcomed his advice, saying that there are more important things to worry about. But since his crusade was featured in the Daily Telegraph, he has attracted media interest from as far afield as the New York Times, and he has received more than 50 letters of support.

Mr Richards said: “They have come from all over the country and I will be replying to them all. People have been very supportive, saying that they are glad someone is doing something about it.

“I do like the English language to be used correctly. I’m not sure why its misuse is so common. My guess would be teaching – grammar isn’t taught in schools as much as it was in my day.”

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