3

I noticed a bar called My Lady's Inn with a sign using one letter per row.

My Lady's Inn

The

 L
 A
 D
 Y'
 S

feels a little strange, and I was wondering if

 L
 A
 D
 Y
'S

would work better?

Any rules or precedents for this ?

Also not sure if there is a name for this type of "formatting" ?

  • 2
    A pedant might insist that the apostrophe be given a line of its own. – WS2 Jan 9 at 22:14
  • 1
    ...and a pennant would require setting the type horizontally! For what it's worth, Adobe Illustrator calls this vertical type orientation... nothing too surprising... and without any fiddling, if you type in "My Lady's Inn" it gives the apostrophe a line of its own. (I wouldn't, though. I like it how they have it.) – tmgr Jan 9 at 23:23
  • 1
    I'm with @tmgr, even though it's called an apostrophe s the apostrophe seems to me to belong with the root word rather than with the s. It's also true, however, that a lot of sinage omits apostrophes anyway, presumably to avoid this sort of problem. – BoldBen Jan 10 at 1:12
3

I had originally only provided a comment, but I'm going to turn it into an answer at the risk of providing something subjective.

But before that, I should say that there is no rule here. This isn't even something that could be answered by any normal style guide.


It seems to me that there are two general approaches that could be take to this.

One is to give each letter and each punctuation mark its own space:

MY    LADY'S    INN

The other general approach is to put the punctuation alongside one or the other letter.

But which one?

MY    LADY'S    INN

MY    LADY'S    INN


In addressing this, I'd consider the following:

MY    LADIES'    INN

Here, we have the plural possessive. Since we aren't using a scheme whereby the apostrophe goes on its own, it has to go with a specific letter. The only letter it can go with is the s.

Which means that as a so-called general rule, we can't create a system where the apostrophe comes before a letter—because it would be impossible to form a plural possessive of a word that ends in s if we did.


Therefore, we could use this consistently applied system:

MY    LADY'S    INN

MY    LADIES'    INN

Or this inconsistently applied system:

MY    LADY'S    INN

MY    LADIES'    INN

Everything being equal, consistency is generally the best approach. So, if I had to argue for putting an apostrophe alongside a particular letter, I would say it should go after a letter, not before it.


Of course, in the case of a single sign, there is no need to use any kind of system because it doesn't need to be applied to multiple signs. And it's entirely up to each person's personal opinion how they actually want to style it.

  • 1
    You must realise though that if these were pre-fabricated tiles you were using (like Scrabble letters) your "inconsistently applied system" is more economical of letters. Whilst you would need three versions of the letter S, if you used the "consistently applied system" many letters of the alphabet would need to be available in two forms, one with apostrophe and one without. – WS2 Jan 10 at 9:21
  • 2
    +1, and not just for the snazzy markup! I admire the boldness in attempting an answer here and applying reductio ad absurdum-esque logic to a sphere bordering on the greengrocer's apostrophe. From another point of view, typographically, an apostrophe has direction, and needs something to 'hang' on, which it wouldn't have if it were to begin a line, where it would just float aimlessly. (In the same way, a left quotation mark sits on the left of a letter, and a right on the right - you wouldn't split either of them off either.) As you say, no rules, but maybe there is a better choice. – tmgr Jan 10 at 14:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.