Editing for Grammarphobes: Possessives


As most of you know, the possessive form of singular nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe s. If the noun ends with an s, add an apostrophe only.


the mummy’s curse

a writer’s work

babies’ blankets 

The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition, cites a few exceptions to this rule for common nouns, including “notable cases where tradition and euphony dictate the use of the apostrophe only.”


for appearance’ (conscience’ or righteousness’) sake 

Nouns that are closely linked should be thought of as a single unit. When showing possession, the second noun takes the possessive.


her aunt and uncle’s boat

mom and dad’s car 

The book notes that “when ‘ownership’ is separate, however, both nouns take the possessive form.”


our son’s and daughter’s friends

The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1969.

Call for Submissions

What does parenthood mean to you?

Bibliophilic Blather is looking for Parenthood Flash Fiction for May. As always, submissions should be 500 words or less. Email them to karen@karenberner.com, and please put “Flash Fiction Fridays” in the subject line. And, if you have not already, please sign up to follow Bibliophilic Blather, so we can build our online community.

Submissions are due May 2. Thanks.

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Anonymous said…
I want to throttle someone when I see apostrophes on what should be a plural.

They're everywhere:

Sock's for sale.

Please thrown away sanitary napkin's in trash.

All kid's should be accompanied by adult.
I know, Jennifer. I am not sure how this error became so widespread. Have people learned it the wrong way in school?
llevinso said…
Thank you for this!

Question, when it's a person's name that ends in S, what is the correct form? I thought I knew but I've seen it so many different ways I just don't know anymore...and it makes me feel silly.
Thanks for your question, llevinso.

I looked it up in "The Chicago Manual of Style" and Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" and was surprised to find so many variations of this rule that I am going to do Monday's "Editing for Grammarphobes" on this very topic.

Sorry I do not have an answer now, but come back on Monday, and I promise to have a full primer on this topic.

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