I AM reeling from some very sad news.

A society dedicated to preserving the correct use of the apostrophe has shut down, with its founder stating that “ignorance and laziness in modern times have won.”

Retired journalist John Richards, 96, started the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001 to make sure the “much-abused” punctuation mark was being used correctly.

But Mr Richards has now announced that, with regret, after some 18 years, he has decided to close it.

“There are two reasons for this,” he says. “One is that at 96 I am cutting back on my commitments and the second is that fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English Language.”

Mr Richards is right. It is a depressing fact that in the 21st century barely anyone seems to care how the apostrophe is used.

I regularly see abuses of this punctuation mark. Every time I go into my local Sainsbury’s I walk under a huge sign above one aisle advertising DVD’s and CD’s. Every time I go in I’m annoyed by it but I am ashamed to say I haven’t drawn their attention to it for fear of being labelled a pedant. It was my husband who first spotted it and I would put money on the fact that we are the only two people who have even noticed.

I am surprised as, to give Sainsbury’s their due, they are one of the few well-known companies to retain the apostrophe in their name.

Morrisons - started by William Morrison - doesn’t have one. Nor does Boots, again founded by an individual. Bettys lost its apostrophe in 1965 - the reason, according to the company website, having been ‘long forgotten’.

I remember being shocked when Waterstones dropped its apostrophe on the grounds that without an apostrophe, in a digital world of URLs and email addresses, it was a more versatile and practical spelling. I would have thought a bookshop would rise above all that URL nonsense (for anyone who doesn’t know it’s a Uniform Resource Locator. Still in the dark?A website address).

The misuse of the apostrophe seems to have expanded to its complete removal.

In some places we have come to expect misplaced apostrophes. It is not uncommon to see greengrocers’ signs with apostrophes in the wrong place. ‘Pear’s 3 for £1’ and ‘Banana’s 90p a bunch’.

I admit the rules of the apostrophe are not easy to grasp. I’ve been a journalist for 30 years and still occasionally resort to Google - and the expertise of colleagues - to check whether ‘it’s’ or ‘its’ is appropriate in a particular sentence.

Text-speak, emails and other rapid forms of communication have eroded our language but there is probably no point in getting het up. Language is forever evolving and this is just another stage. After all the apostrophe has only been used in English since the 16th century.

I console myself with the words from the Oxford Companion to English Literature: ‘There never was a golden age in which the rules for the possessive apostrophe were clear-cut and known, understood and followed by most educated people.’

This is quoted by writer Lynne Truss in her brilliant book ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. She also says: ‘To those who care about punctuation, a sentence such as “Thank God its Friday (without the apostrophe) rouses feelings not only of despair but of violence.’

It certainly does.