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

Even before the age of the Internet, many companies dropped the apostrophes from their names, or never used them to begin with, such as Michaels, Starbucks, and Little Caesars, to use DePuy’s examples. Why did they do this? Usually, they have neither explained nor apologized, but DePuy did find one explanation. The company named Wegmans got rid of their apostrophe in 1931, and because it’s still family-owned, would like people to think of the name as simply a plural proper noun. But we know what’s really going on. It should be a possessive, because the name isn’t referring just to a group of people named Wegman; it refers to the company that belongs to them. They just liked the simpler look of the name without it. 

The federal agency that records place names in the US doesn’t like apostrophes, either, and has only allowed an apostrophe in official place names five times in more than 100 years. As Barry Newman wrote in an article in the Wall Street Journal:

The Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names doesn’t like apostrophes. Visitors to Harpers Ferry or Pikes Peak might not realize it, but anyone aspiring to name a ridge or a swamp after a local hero will soon find out. …

An apostrophe, the argument goes, implies private ownership of a public place. 

Policies like these don’t always go down smoothly, though. A more recent decision in Cambridge, England, to stop putting apostrophes in street signs, was reversed after public outcry

Next: Why Bakers Toolkit Isn't Wrong


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 school board. You can find him at literalminded.wordpress.com.

You May Also Like...