The Page a Day Writers Group

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Posted on: December 15, 2009

It’s not enough to come up with interesting, entertaining or riveting prose. Writers have to make sure they’re spelling everything correctly. It’s always an adventure to keep on top of grammar, spelling and punctuation. To be a true professional, writers must maintain an accepted style and consistency to their work.

An ongoing challenge for me is possessives ending in s. Since I haven’t been to J school this century, I’m often scratching my head to remember the rules I was taught so very long ago. I keep a dog-eared copy of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style alongside my keyboard and once again, it comes to the rescue.

For those of you who also struggle with ‘s or s’s or s’ here’s a reminder of the accepted style for singular and plural possessive nouns:

Form the singular possessive of nouns ending in s with ‘s: Mr. Jones’s wallet, Thomas’s music, Doris’s report. The only exceptions are ancient proper nouns: Jesus’ disciple, Moses’ acts.

However, you form the plural possessive of nouns by adding an apostrophe after the “s”: the girls’ purses, the kites’ tales, the pencils’ boxes.

In the case of the plural possessive of nouns ending in s — as in, say, the family James and their minivan — you add an es and an apostrophe at the end: the Jameses’ minivan, the Felixes’ car.

Claire Yezbak Fadden

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4 Responses to "Giving Credit Where Credit is Due"

Great blog today, Claire, especially since I’ve been fighting one of these rules lately. My main character’s name is Dallas and there are times when I need to make her name possessive and I HATE the way an ‘s looks after her name…so I haven’t used it. 🙂

I’m sure during my rewrite, those particular sentences will definitely have to be changed…all to avoid that yucky ‘s!

Sharon

Nice reminder on correct format Claire! Sharon, I am in your camp. I DESPISE the possessive s’s. It reads like a stutter.

He, he, he…I agree Kirsten!

I’m so glad you pointed out the names that end in ‘s’, Claire. I’m so sick of seeing my own name done ‘the new school’ way, Ayers’. It looks like my last name is then spelled ‘Ayer’, which is a real name (Probably some distant relatives of mine, in fact).

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The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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