News

Tech News : Apostrophes Dropped From Street Signs

North Yorkshire council has said it’s having to drop apostrophes from its street signs to avoid problems with its computer database!

Must Meet BS7666 

The reason given for North Yorkshire council for dropping the apostrophes (e.g. in its street name signs), is that including apostrophes can affect geographical databases and that when street names and addresses are stored in its databases, they must meet the standards set out in BS7666.

Not The Only Council Doing It 

North Yorkshire Council has also said that it is one of many councils around the country with plans to “eliminate” the apostrophe from street signs. Other councils that have already opted to drop apostrophes from their signs include Cambridge City Council, and Mid Devon District Council.

How Does BS7666 Apply to This? 

The main part of BS7666 that North Yorkshire Council has identified as having an influence on its decision is the need for standardised data entry. For example, BS7666 encourages the use of standardised formats for addresses and street names to facilitate efficient data sharing and matching across different systems. Including apostrophes might be seen as introducing variability that can affect how data is entered, stored, and retrieved. Standardisation aims to minimise these discrepancies. Also, a council spokesperson has been reported as saying that BS7666 restricts the use of punctuation marks and special characters such as apostrophes, hyphens, and ampersands because these have specific meanings in computer systems and could, therefore, cause problems with those systems and databases if used.

Other ways that BS7666 could apply to the council’s decision include:

– Data interoperability. BS7666 is designed to ensure that spatial data can be shared effectively between different organisations and systems. Variations in how street names are recorded (including whether or not they use apostrophes) can lead to issues when exchanging data. This is particularly relevant when databases interface with other systems like emergency services, postal services, and mapping software, where consistent, accurate data is crucial.

– Database design and implementation. The standards set out in BS7666 guide local councils in designing and implementing their geographical databases. If the standard recommends excluding characters such as apostrophes for the sake of consistency and reliability, councils (like North Yorkshire’s) may decide to follow this guideline to ensure compliance and avoid potential technical issues.

Other Issues

The issue of including apostrophes in street names in the context of UK councils and their geographical databases primarily revolves around technical and administrative challenges. For example, in addition to the need for data consistency to enable the accurate matching and cross-referencing data across different systems or databases, and the possible technical limitations of older databases, and apostrophes in street names complicating search functions within databases, there’s also the issue of Geographic information systems (GIS) and interoperability. North Yorkshire Council referred to potential problems relating to apostrophes and geographic databases. GIS and other data-sharing platforms, for example, might not handle special characters consistently. If street names are shared between multiple organisations or systems (like postal services, emergency services, etc.), discrepancies in the use of apostrophes can lead to operational inefficiencies or errors in data exchange.

Criticism 

The decision by North Yorkshire Council to do away with street name apostrophes has attracted plenty of criticism and ridicule from members of the public in the North Yorkshire area. For example, it’s been reported that some people have highlighted how many people are irritated by poor grammar or punctuation, and others have suggested that losing apostrophes is a lowering of standards and could be a negative step considering how much time is spent teaching children the basics and importance of grammar.

Other Views 

Others, however, have been reported as pointing out that apostrophes were a relatively new invention in the English language, and they may make little difference in pronunciation for visitors from overseas.

What About The Legal Angle? 

Returning to the subject of BS7666’s aim of standardisation, that may also mean having to balance the historical and cultural significance of names. If, for example, the official and legal naming of a place includes an apostrophe, there may be legal argument that the standard might still need to accommodate such usage to ensure that official records match those used in geographical databases.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The decision by North Yorkshire Council to drop apostrophes from street signs, aligning with the standards set out in BS7666, marks a shift that affects not just the council but also the local community and businesses – hence much of the criticism. This change aims to sidestep the technical and administrative hurdles associated with non-standard address entries in geographic databases, promoting consistency and reliability in digital records. For the council, the decision has proved to be a double-edged sword so far. While it may streamline data management and support seamless data sharing with vital services like emergency response and postal services, it has led to criticism for perceived erosion of grammatical standards and local character in street naming.

For businesses in the area, especially those reliant on local foot traffic and deliveries, these changes mean adapting to new address norms. While it might simplify database management and reduce errors in deliveries or service provisioning due to address inconsistencies, some businesses might need to update their information across multiple platforms and communication materials – or may simply feel they shouldn’t have to do so.

For residents of the area, many of whom have been vocal in their opposition to the council’s decision, the loss of traditional apostrophes may be seen as a decline in standards and cultural preservation, sparking debates about the balance between modern efficiency and historical legacy. That said, the standardisation may actually make it easier for services to locate addresses, potentially improving response times in emergencies.

As multiple councils across the country adopt similar changes, we may see a national shift towards more streamlined address systems in public records and databases. This might encourage software developers and GIS providers to further refine their systems to accommodate standardised data entry, potentially leading to broader improvements in data handling and service delivery across various sectors. However, widespread standardisation may also prompt a cultural re-evaluation of how we preserve our linguistic heritage within the digital age, and future discussions and policies might need to carefully consider not just the practical needs of the council’s systems and standards, but other points of view in the area.


Don’t take our word for it, see what are our clients say

“Many thanks again for all of your work getting us up and running in the cloud and getting us organised, another happy customer.”

- Karen Cotton -