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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Apostrophes Anyone? Sometimes rules aren't rules and if you're over 40 the rules might have changed!

Today I'm blogging--if you can call it that--with an excerpt straight from The Frugal Editor. Actually from one of the sidebars.

Most of us know this stuff but we're also not aware that even the stylebooks disagree on some of the basics. And, even though we know a lot, we still get tripped up on it--often. I know from the editing I do. (-: And there is one among these that we don't often think about or need but when we do, we can get confused. I know that because I get letters. Ha!

AND, one of these rules has changed slightly since some of us were in the sixth grade. Can you tell which one?

Making Possessives So Simple the Gremlin Can't Fool with You (c)

1.Add 's to a singular form of the word, even if it ends in s. Example: Travis's uniform. (Yes, the stylebooks do disagree on this and there are what I call seat-of-the-pants exceptions. Sound seems to be the determiner, or an individual publisher or journal's style guidelines.)

2.Add 's to plural forms that do not end in s. Example: children's.

3. Add only the apostrophe to the end of plural nouns that end in s: Example: several eggs' yolks or writers' program.

4. Add 's only to the end-syllable in compound words. Example: sister-in-law's children.

5. Add 's only to the last noun in a series to show joint possession of a single object. Example: Nancy and Ted's house. Rarely two people will possess two items; in that case each of the owners would get a separate little marker for a possessive. Example: Nancy's and Ted's cars.

6. Do not add an apostrophe to a possessive pronoun. The words yours, theirs, his, etc., already indicate possession. In this case, the gremlin usually coaxes you into an error only when you have a prepositional phrase. Example: He is an enemy of yours (not an enemy of yours' or your's).

Note: These rules may be slightly different--especially the rules with plurals--from the ones you learned in school. The updated ones are easier. Rejoice!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success at Learn more about her other authors' aids at


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Well, I am over 40...

Glad you found the mention on my page - I'll gladly do a mention of your sites in the journal for my online writer's club.

Love the 'frugal'!

Kareen Ross- Your Book Designer said...

Punctuation... I'm not the best at that, so I appreciate it when I find good advice.

I was just looking up the "rules" for where to place (.) and (,) before or after quotes... and found some interesting "takes" on the subject as well as some out-of-date comments in an online writers style-guide and realized that not all info I find will be up-to-date!

I certainly appreciate that you are helping to keep us in the know about proper punctuation, and your comments on apostrophes is one I'll remember or at least bookmark so I'll be able to look it up quickly.

Rmemeber, keep doing something every day towards your book and promotion.™

Kareen Ross
Your Book Cover & Interior Designer

Great Editing Is Great Marketing

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