That Confusing “S”

The last post on the “s” engendered more than a few questions. Here are a couple of answers.

In the construction, “…one of the girl’s/girls’ phones…” or “…one of the voter’s/voters’ choices…,” the form should be plural possessive.

…We were talking with one of the girls’ friends at the time.
…It has to deal with one of his friends’ mothers.

Awkward!! Ugly!! But it is correct.


There is variation in the rules that are taught (and found in books) regarding the formation of possessives.

I think this works as there are no exceptions for any word in the language, no matter what the word ends in or how it is pronounced.

Singular Possessive: Make a word singular possessive by adding an apostrophe “s” to the singular form of the word. All words, including words and names that end in “s,” follow this rule.

…I drove Ms. Ellis’s new car.
…We were seated with Mr. Sanchez’s son.
…She wrote to Mr. Hopkins’s attorney.

(Yes, there may be a problem with pronunciation. I recommend that you follow the rule and not the pronunciation in order to avoid having two different forms of the same word; however, some of you may disagree. It is an editorial decision on your part.)

Plural Possessive: To make a word that ends in “s” plural possessive, add just the apostrophe. If the plural form does not end in “s,” add apostrophe “s.” Be sure to make the word plural first.

…I drove the Ellises’ new car.
…We were seated with the Sanchezes’ son.
…She wrote to the Hopkinses’ attorney.

…She writes children’s books.
…It is in the men’s department.

Happy punctuating!


That Confusing “S”

When a proper name ends in “s” and we have to make it plural or possessive, it seems it is always a bit jarring.

There are several things to keep in mind:

First, when a surname has the word “the” in front of it, it is always plural.

…I saw the Cohens when I visited D.C.
…The Johnsons joined us for dinner.

Second, when a surname ends in “s,” the plural form adds “es.”

…I saw the Joneses when I visited D.C.
…The Hollises joined us for dinner.

Third, when making a surname that ends in “s” plural possessive, make the name plural first; then add the apostrophe.

…It is difficult to believe the Wilsons’ story.
…It is difficult to believe the McIntyres’ story.

…I rode with them in the Rosses’ car.
…I rode with them in the Hodgeses’ car.

When using a surname as an adjective, there are two equally correct ways to say it.

…He is currently living in the Nelson house.
…He is currently living in the Nelsons’ house.

…He is currently living in the Wells house.
…He is currently living in the Wellses’ house.

The distinction in the latter case is often diffcult to hear and particularly so when the next word begins with an “s.” Think “passenger side” versus “passenger’s side.”

(And, of course, I have to point out that I married my wonderful husband in part so that I would have that really cool name to use in these examples.)

Happy punctuating!


An Extra Wrinkle to the Apostrophe Question

…I went to the Nelson house.
…I went to the Nelsons’ house.

Each of these is correct to say in English. Obviously, the second one has to deal with the possessive whereas the first one does not.

Remember that, when a surname has the word “the” in front of it, it is always plural.

It is the names that end in “s” or “z” that cause us the most problem. If you are unsure of what it should be and whether or not it should be plural, try a name that does not end in “s.”

…He was driving the Millers’ car.
…He was driving the Sanchezes’ car.

Pronunciation comes into play in that many people do not know how to pronounce these plural names. My husband and I together are not the “Wells”; we are the “Wellses.”

Happy punctuating!


Those Darn Hyphens

If a noun is listed as separate words, then it stays separate words — and is not hyphenated — as a direct (right in front of the noun) adjective.

…He is in real estate.
…He is a real estate broker.

…He is in high school.
…He is a high school senior.

This gets a little crazy since it means that words need to be looked up even more frequently.

…Odds and ends are being taken care of.
…It is an odds and ends job.

Happy punctuating!


More Errors in the News on the Internet…

Reading news on the Internet certainly gives me lots of chance to share with all of you. You get to work on your proofreading skills three time in one week and twice today!

…Of the parent’s plan for their children, the source said, “They want to fill their children’s lives with as much love as possible…

…oil worker – now wracked with pain from arthritis and other maladies — spends nearly every day…

These people seriously need a course in word pairs — or my book.

Happy punctuating!


Singular Possessives…Again

There seem to be so many variations in the way everyone wants to do the singular possessive: apostrophe alone sometimes, apostrophe s sometimes. Does the word end in s? How is it pronounced?

The rule is so simple: Add apostrophe s to the singular form of the word for the singular possessive — no struggles, no mess, no consternation, no having to decide.

…Mr. Well’s car is in the shop.
…I believe Mr. Rogers’s address is incorrect on this form.
…We saw Ms. Burns’s report on this matter.

Happy punctuating!


Apostrophe or Hyphen

When there is a quantity, measurement, distance, value, amount that is expressed as a direct adjective (right in front of a noun) AND there is an “s” on the adjective, use an apostrophe “s” when it is singular and an “s” apostrophe when it is plural.

…one minute’s delay
…five minutes’ delay

…one week’s vacation
…two weeks’ vacation

When there is no “s,” use a hyphen.

…one-week vacation
…five-minute delay

When there is an adjective rather than a noun after the combination, there is no apostrophe or hyphen.

…seven months pregnant
…one month long

Happy punctuating!


Apostrophe “d”

When an abbreviation or a proper name is used as a verb, add apostrophe d for the ending.

…It was later discovered that he had OD’d.
…We Prius’d it for the night instead of taking the big car.

When an “-ing” is needed, use apostrophe ing for the ending. [Remember that, though reporters think of the g as an “ing,” the rest of the world does not.]

…They are ID’ing him as we speak.
…We will be Outback’ing it tonight.

Happy punctuating!