Bangs to rights over apostrophe howler

9th January 2004 at 00:00
It's not often an officer of the National Union of Teachers makes it into a bestseller but that is exactly where John Bangs, the union's head of education, has found himself.

Sadly for Mr Bangs, however, his name was not on the spine of a book but inside Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, Lynne Truss's fabulously popular guide to punctuation.

Ms Truss says a misplaced apostrophe provokes in her "a ghastly private emotional process similar to ... bereavement" and advocates setting up gangs of apostrophe vigilantes to enforce correct use. In a list of howlers on page 52, we find, horror of horrors, "'childrens' education' (in a letter from the head of education at the National Union of Teachers)".

Mr Bangs, who says he is normally "punctilious about punctuation", said he was unsure to which letter Ms Truss was referring. He even suggested that his predecessor, Michael Barber, might have been the guilty party.

"Nevertheless, as a prospective leader of the union I suppose I shall have to get used to taking responsibility for the mistakes of others. It was probably me," he said. "It was drawn to my attention on Boxing Day. It didn't go down very well with the cold Christmas turkey."

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