Don’t abuse the apostrophe if you want customers to respect your brand, stay loyal and continue buying your goods and services. Apostrophe misuse can hurt your business.

Take a look – if you can bear it – at these signs from a new car valeting service at my local garden centre. I wish to report an apostrophe crime, and that’s not all…

Apostrophe misuse

The signs are pretty clear design-wise, and obviously cost quite a bit to create, but the number of grammatical and spelling errors is quite appalling. We should all be ranting over this sorry excuse for a sign.

As well as an apostrophe in the wrong place (4×4’s), the basic grammar is faulty. Capital letters are used when there’s no need for them and on another sign, the word ‘receptacle’ is spelled incorrectly. Why couldn’t they just say ‘the bin’?

Recepticle - rubbish!

If a professional writer wrote these signs, I’ll eat my trilby. If it turns out that a so-called pro wrote it I’d want to make them eat it – any hat will do.

Companies risk hurting their business in many ways by using apostrophes incorrectly.

• Customers hesitate over what you mean and move on – this is particularly dangerous on the web where you have seconds to grab their attention
• Damage to reputation – if you’re not bothered enough to get your signs properly written and proofread, will your attitude be just as slipshod over customer service?
• Poor image – as a business you need to be taken seriously. Turning your marketing communications into an example of bad grammar on Twitter or Facebook groups like The Apostrophe Police will not achieve this!

A missed apostrophe or a badly placed one may not decimate a firm, but it will certainly hurt it.

It’s not as if it’s a hard grammatical rule to remember. As Guardian Style Guide puts it: ‘Apostrophes are used to indicate a missing letter or letters (can’t, we’d) or a possessive (David’s book). Don’t let anyone tell you that apostrophes don’t matter.’