Does your sign need an apostrophe?

Does your sign need an apostrophe?

We recently produced this excellent sign for Maxine of Norfolk and she kindly sent us a photo – always appreciated! She had asked if we could do a sign with a ringed plover, and when her order came through we could see why – the name of the road is Plover’s Way. But is it correct to include an apostrophe in the name?

There appears to be no consensus on whether certain street names should include an apostrophe, but it’s a subject that can arouse strong feelings. Councils have been striving to eliminate them, saying they can cause confusion or may delay the arrival of emergency services. So newly built developments are unlikely to include punctuation. Changes to long-established place names, however, will invoke hostility from residents and locals if the signage is altered without consultation and agreement.

Why did the use of apostrophes in street names even arise in the first place? Either the area belonged to a local landowner, the church or had a famous resident, and this sense of possession has transferred to the road that runs across the land or leads to a similarly named property. 

But consistency can be lacking, even regarding the same location. Here’s an amusing look at some famous roads and more obscure byways by The Londonist Even St. James’s Park tube station can’t decide, featuring both the first format and St. James Park as an alternative.

We always check with our customers, of course, if there’s any doubt that the apostrophe is in the right place or whether one is needed at all. We also take a view as to whether including one will adversely affect the layout and design. But sometimes there’s no question: Life’s a Beach; Rose’s Cottage; Salt View’s Sea Shack; Anning’s View, Henry’s Way. 

Should there have been one in Mariners Quay? I suspect yes, but it’s what the customer wants that rules the day and we were happy to go along with their wishes.