Apostrophes in Company Names

A former contestant on the reality show The Apprentice started a business named Bakers Toolkit, and her Twitter followers went bonkers about the missing apostrophe. Neal Whitman points out that they were missing something too. 

Neal Whitman, Writing for
5-minute read
Episode #414

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A former contestant on the reality show The Apprentice started a business last August, and named it Bakers Toolkit. But wait: Is that Baker's Toolkit, Bakers' Toolkit, or just Bakers Toolkit, with no apostrophe? Luisa Zissman, the businesswoman, didn’t know, and asked for advice on Twitter. Boy, did she get it! One of my Twitter followers asked me about this story last week, so we’re going to talk about apostrophes, plural nouns, and brand names.

Apostrophes on Singular Nouns

What do the rules of English grammar and punctuation say about Bakers Toolkit? It depends on the meaning that Zissman intended. Are we talking about a hypothetical, generic baker, an Everybaker who could use this toolkit? In that case, baker’s is the possessive form of the singular noun baker, so it should be spelled Baker's.

Apostrophes on Plural Nouns

Alternatively, are we talking about all bakers, or at least bakers in general, who could use this toolkit? In that case, we want the possessive form of the plural noun bakers, which is spelled Bakers'. 

The “Looks and Works Better Without an Apostrophe” Argument

Zissman, however, took the third option, of having no apostrophe at all, and her followers went bonkers. The main reason she did it is probably because omitting the apostrophe makes for more convenient Web addresses and hashtags on social media. Laying aside the issue of whether this is breaking any rules of grammar or punctuation, we can note that Zissman is far from alone in doing this. A blog post by Pat DePuy on the website for the digital marketing agency Mainstreethost explains more about why many companies ditch their apostrophes when they create an online presence:

When searched on Google or Bing, terms with apostrophes sometimes generate different results than ones without them. The extent of [these] differences can depend on the word and size of the brand name being searched. For one, there tends to be far more competition on the keywords without apostrophes, so it’s in these brands’ best interests to rank under those search terms. This way they’re not missing out on potentially big traffic to their site when contemporary users leave out possessive apostrophes in their searches.

Next: Who Else Has Dropped Apostrophes?


About the Author

Neal Whitman, Writing for Grammar Girl

Neal Whitman PhD is an independent writer and consultant specializing in language and grammar and a member of the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, school board. You can find him at literalminded.wordpress.com.