October 3rd, 2023, Christien Pheby

Do Britons recognise which brands do - and don't - have apostrophes in their names?

After shutting down in 2019, the Apostrophe Protection Society (APS) returned in September 2023 under new leadership.  John Richards – who founded the society – lamented that “the barbarians have won” on retiring, but new Chairman Bob McCalden believes it is “worth continuing with the struggle.”

As with Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, however, a traditional conservative has been succeeded by a reforming liberal. While Richards complained about Waterstones and other brands ditching their apostrophes, McCalden is “entirely comfortable” with this kind of change.

But do Britons even know which brands have apostrophes in their names, and which don’t? It depends.

Most Britons get the McVitie’s and Kellogg’s apostrophes wrong, but get the Sainsbury’s and Nando’s apostrophes right 

We presented 1,000 Britons with nine brands: some have apostrophes in the name, some do not, some used to have apostrophes and have since ditched them. We offered two options – one with the apostrophe, one without – and asked them to guess the name that was correct.

It’s important to note that we asked the public to choose the right answer based on how the brand presents itself to the public, not on whether the brand name is correct in terms of grammar or usage. So as far as our poll is concerned, the 84% of Britons who chose “Waterstones” over “Waterstone’s” were right.

Anyway, our findings show that Britons were most likely to get the McVitie’s brand name wrong: 26% chose the option with the apostrophe – the correct option – while 72% chose the option without the apostrophe. Similarly, 59% of Britons believe Kelloggs is the correct brand name, with just 39% choosing the actual brand name: “Kellogg’s”.

Beyond food, half of the public said that the correct brand name was “Levis” (50%), with 46% choosing "Levi’s”.  The common thread among the three brands Britons got wrong, of course, is that they have apostrophes in the name.

Most of the public correctly identified that Boots (95% no apostrophe; 4% apostrophe), Starbucks (92% vs. 6%), and Lloyds (82% vs. 14%) do not have apostrophes in the name – even if stalwarts believe they should. Still, more orthodox members of the APS should take heart: most Britons correctly guessed that apostrophe holdouts Sainsbury’s (58% vs. 41%) and Nando’s (57% vs. 36%) still have the punctuation mark in their names.


YouGov polled 1,000 British adults online on 26 September 2023. The survey was carried out through YouGov Surveys: Self-serve. Data is weighted by age, gender, education level, region, and social grade. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Self-serve.

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