Apostrophes with Words Ending in s
While normal people wonder about apostrophes in general, believe it or not, word nerds have heated arguments over whether to use an additional s with singular possession.
Rule 1: Many common nouns end in the letter s (lens, cactus, bus, etc.). So do a lot of proper nouns (Mr. Jones, Texas, Christmas). There are conflicting policies and theories about how to show possession when writing such nouns. There is no right answer; the best advice is to choose a formula and stay consistent.
Some writers and editors add ‘s to every proper noun, be it Hastings’s or Jones’s. And there are a few who add only an apostrophe to all nouns ending in s—however, this method is relatively rare, and not recommended here.
One method, common in newspapers and magazines, is to add an apostrophe plus s (-’s) to common nouns ending in s, but only a stand-alone apostrophe to proper nouns ending in s.
the class’s hours
Mr. Jones’ golf clubs
The canvas’s size
Another widely used technique is to write the word as we would speak it. For example, since most people saying, “Mr. Hastings’ pen” would not pronounce an added s, we would write Mr. Hastings’ pen with no added s. But most people would pronounce an added s in “Jones’s,” so we’d write it as we say it: Mr. Jones’s golf clubs. This method explains the punctuation of for goodness’ sake.
Rule 2: To show plural possession of a word ending in an s or s sound, form the plural first; then immediately use the apostrophe.
the classes’ hours
the Joneses’ car
guys’ night out
two actresses’ roles
Place the apostrophe (and perhaps an s) where appropriate.
1. The classes opinions were predictable according to their grade levels.
2. The boss suit was brand new.
3. The bus steering wheel was wearing out.
4. The Crosses dog bit the mailman.
5. We understand Lagos airport handled over one million passengers last year.
6. The Smiths boat sank.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. The classes’ opinions were predictable according to their grade levels.
2. The boss’s suit was brand new.
3. The bus’s steering wheel was wearing out.
4. The Crosses’ dog bit the mailman.
5. We understand Lagos’s (OR Lagos’) airport handled over one million passengers last year.
6. The Smiths’ boat sank.
Posted on Friday, January 26th, 2007, at 1:26 am