Apostrocatastrophe!

Yesterday I posted the front cover of Widows/Widow’s/Widows’ Row (a novel which I’m bringing out soon) to my Facebook page. I had forgotten about my struggle with the apostrophe…

The reason it was a struggle wasn’t that I don’t know how to use an apostrophe. I do. (At this point the ancient laws of writing are sure to kick in. There will be at least one typo or punctuation error that I miss in this piece because I have mentioned that I am fairly confident with apostrophes.) No, in fact it was a pain to figure out what should be done with the title of Widows/Widow’s/Widows’ Row because I do know how apostrophes work.

You’re thinking, ‘This is simple. It should be Widows’ Row, because the ‘row’ belongs to the widows. Otherwise it will be a row belonging to one widow (Widow’s Row) or a group of widows out for a paddle in a canoe (Widows Row).

The problem was/is that there is no street sign, map or historical document that I could find that had the apostrophe in the ‘correct’ place. Widows/Widow’s/Widows’ Row is a real place. Here’s a picture of it:

You will find it written as Widow’s Row or Widows Row, but never Widows’ Row. So I had a choice between historical inaccuracy and inauthenticity (the ‘correct’ use of the apostrophe: Widows’ Row) or two ‘incorrect’ versions which were and are actually used. In the end I decided on what seemed like the least ‘wrong’ of these: Widows Row (because the row of houses definitely does not only belong to one woman).

I also found a blog post by Michael Rosen on the subject of apostrophes and place names. It is rather lovely and I encourage you read it if you’re interested in apostrophes.

I forgot about the apostrophe dilemma after that. I went on with writing my novel and I finished it and redrafted, and then redrafted again, and then, two years later, I pulled it out of the drawer and redrafted again, and then I redrafted it again. I’m almost finished this round of edits – it will be the last round (I am still finding mistakes by the way; another ancient law of writing:  mistakes multiply by looking at them). The apostrophe was sorted though. So I thought.

Yesterday I posted the picture on Facebook and in among the ‘likes’ and encouraging comments (thank you!) a few questions began to be asked. Where’s the apostrophe, Shirl?

So I explained. But then someone else asked. I explained again. And then a few more people asked. Oh dear!

So. My dear partner is currently photoshopping-in an apostrophe. It pains me a little, if I’m honest. There should be no apostrophe on the title. But as I can’t fit this blog post on the cover of the book then I have little choice. I wouldn’t buy a book if I perceived a punctuation mistake on the front cover.
So it is with a little sigh that I capitulate on this issue. If you were one of the people who asked about the whereabouts of the apostrophe, then I want to thank you. You have contributed to the title of my book, and I’m grateful for the input because, I imagine, with the apostrophe inserted there will be very few people who ask why I didn’t go with authenticity or the (lack of) rules which apply to signage, over ‘correct’ punctuation. I think you’ve saved me some heartache…

But a little part of me is sad that I’ve given in. I might keep a copy of my book without the apostrophe, just for myself 🙂

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2 comments

    1. I know. But it wasn’t. It would be most incorrect for me to use ‘Widow’s’ because the whole reason for the existence of the row of houses was that so many women lost their partners in one big fishing disaster.

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