The Baker's Apostrophe home

Noticing what isn't there

Why I was reading the loaf of bread, I cannot say. However, I noticed the absence of an apostrophe where I thought one was needed. After consultation with the the NCSU grammar hotline, who were less than enthusiastic, to be honest, and consultation with an old English teacher (that's old as in not my current English teacher), I have decided that the apostrophe belongs where it is not presently included.

The inclusion of an apostrophe where it does not belong is often called the Greengrocer's apostrophe - hence the existence of signs reading carrot's on most greengrocer stalls. Perhaps the absence of a required apostrophe is the baker's apostrophe. Maybe, after throwing in an extra bread roll in his baker's dozen, he feels less generous with his ink when writing...

Here follows my letter to Hovis about their packaging. If I get a reply, I'll post something about it.

Quality Control Department
Hovis Bakery
British Bakeries Ltd
P.O.B 527

12th March 2001

Dear Sir,

I recently bought a Hovis Great White sliced bread. I am writing because I believe that there is an error in the text on the packaging. The text in question begins:

“With over 100 years baking experience”

I believe that this requires an apostrophe:

“With over 100 years’ baking experience”

The reason for this can be illustrated if we replace “100 years” with “a century”. The amended expression would only make sense with the apostrophe:

“With over a century’s baking experience”

Therefore, the expression is clearly possessive and refers to the baking experience of (or belonging to) the period in question.

I am not in the habit of scrutinising packaging in order to find errors. However, I noticed this because I am particularly sensitive to misuse of the apostrophe, something that I believe to be an increasing problem in this country. The problem is partly caused by a decline in teaching standards and exacerbated by the large numbers of incorrectly punctuated texts on public display.

I would appreciate it greatly if you chose to amend your packaging.

Please let me know whether you will be able to help with this matter.

Yours faithfully,
Mr Ashley Frieze.

12 March 2001
Ashley Frieze