How would you analyze the following story's context, tone, and style?

Birmingham bans apostrophes from road signs

Councillors in Birmingham have walked into a punctuation storm after deciding to scrap apostrophes from the city’s road signs.

England’s second city has removed the possessive punctuation mark from street names, saying it aims to avoid confusion.

One councillor even went so far to say he did not “see the point” of the possessive apostrophe in place names.

“If it was to give more clarity to the people of Birmingham it might be something we would look at, but I see no benefits at all,” cabinet transportation member Len Gregory told the Birmingham Post.

The decision, which the council hopes will draw a line under decades of dispute, follows a review to establish whether the possessive punctuation mark should be restored to place names such as Kings Heath, Acocks Green and Druids Heath.

Councillor Martin Mullaney said the decision not to reintroduce apostrophes, which began to disappear from Birmingham’s road signs in the 1950s, had been taken in light of several factors, including the need for consistency and the cost of changing existing signage.

“We are constantly getting residents asking for apostrophes to be put back in and as a council we have got to make a decision one way or another,” said the chair of the city’s transportation scrutiny committee.

The ruling will also mean that Birmingham’s well-known St Paul’s Square, in the city’s Jewellery Quarter, will soon be known as St Pauls.

But grammarians have attacked the decision as “dumbing down”.

John Richards, the founder and chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society, said: “It seems retrograde, dumbing down really.

“It is setting a very bad example because teachers all over Birmingham are teaching their children punctuation and then they see road signs with apostrophes removed. I think the council would be better advised to make sure the right apostrophes are in rather than removing them.

“It’s a bad example to children and teachers. It’s a simple rule and so many people get it wrong.”

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Context includes the time period the writing is set in, the prevailing social and political conditions at the time of publication, and specific influences that inspired the writer to pen such an article.

The above passage appears to be a news article from a British newspaper. It was written in 2009. Although not immediately current, it addresses an ongoing national discussion about the dangers of "dumbing down" in the United Kingdom. In fact, there have been a slew of articles since then that have reported on the "dumbing down" phenomenon in education that concerns many British citizens.

The prevailing debate centers on questions of fairness versus quality: should academic institutions concentrate on instilling high standards of academic excellence or on providing equal opportunities for all? Recently, a barrage of articles (the above being one of many) have condemned the public predilection for pop culture and its disdain for serious discourse; as a result, there have been ubiquitous calls for a national examination of the public consciousness.

Critics of the "dumbing down" phenomenon contend British colleges and universities now award top honors to more than 70% of new graduates, essentially making their new degrees "meaningless" in terms of quality. The context of the article centers on the national debate regarding eroding academic standards and the simultaneous decline of British culture.

Here are articles on "dumbing down" in British society:

The "dumbing down" of British culture and society.

Universities 'dumbing down' degrees so more students graduate with top class honors.


In any piece of writing, style includes diction (word choice) and syntax (sentence construction). In the Birmingham article, the author has chosen to use a more formal style of writing, as opposed to an informal style. Slang is not used in the article at all. The formal style with few contractions is perfectly suited to the serious subject matter.

Also, the style of the article is more informative than expository. In expository writing, the author provides evidence for taking a particular stance on a topic; on the other hand, informative writing aims to impart the straight facts and circumstances of a situation without the inclusion of personal opinion. In the Birmingham article, the author delineates the prevailing sentiments on both sides of the "dumbing down" debate, but he doesn't provide any arguments to support a personal stance on the matter.


As a practice, tone constitutes the author's own attitudes towards the subject matter. In the Birmingham article, the author is serious, clear, concise, and candid. It is an article devoid of tangential information; the author is focused on the "dumbing down" debate exclusively.

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