Plurals, Possessives, and Surnames Oh My!

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A reader asked me to address possessives with a proper name.  I mentioned it in an article early on (see Apostrophail!), but we will delve into it here.

The first rule–the most important thing to remember when working with surnames (a person’s last name)–is do not change a person’s name. You can’t add an apostrophe before an “s” when the surname ends in “s.” For instance, do not make the name “Andrews” possessive by putting the apostrophe between the “w” and the “s.” That is changing the spelling of Andrews. A person’s name is the most personal thing they have. Don’t mess that up! So here are some tips for making surnames plural and possessive.

To make most surnames plural, you add an “s.”

  • The Smiths went to the Halloween party dressed as dice.

That means more than one Smith went to the party. Where the surname ends in s, x, ch, sh, or z, you should add es to make the name plural.

  • The Lopezes have been married for 50 years.

However, if adding es makes the name hard to pronounce, just use the s.

  • The Hastings went to the park for a picnic. (In this case Hastingses would be difficult to pronounce, so Hastings is better.)

As for possessives, to make most surnames possessive, add an apostrophe and an “s.”

  • Mr. Smith’s car was repossessed.

For these surnames that are plural and possessive, make them plural by adding an “s” and then add an apostrophe to make them possessive.

  • The Smiths’ car was parked illegally.

Where surnames end in “s,” to make them possessive, pronounce the word. If you say the extra “s,” you add apostrophe and “s.”

  • Shirley Jones’s son flunked algebra.

You would pronounce it “Joneses,” so you add the apostrophe and “s.” Where the surname ends in “s” and making it plural adds an extra syllable that makes it awkward to pronounce, add only the apostrophe.

  • Mr. Andrews’ house was broken into.

You would not pronounce it “Andrewses,” so you only add the apostrophe. Where you are talking about a surname that ends in “s” and you want it plural and possessive, make it plural first and then follow the rules on making it possessive.

  • The Joneses’ house was for sale.

You make Jones plural by adding “es” because it ends in “s,” but adding apostrophe and “s” after that would make it difficult to pronounce (Joneseses) so you just add the apostrophe.

Again, the main thing to remember is not to change the basic spelling of a person’s name. Start with their name spelled correctly, and then figure out how to make it plural and/or possessive.

Hopefully this is helpful. Don’t upset a person by misspelling their name. Possessives and plurals aren’t difficult if you think about the base word you are trying to change.

 

 

Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_10709367_smith-name-in-phone-book.html’>bradcalkins / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Grammar Giggles – Periods Are Important!

On a road trip last weekend, a friend spotted this sign in the women’s restroom. Periods need to be used to separate sentences so the message is clear. Periods ARE important (and so are puns)!

Bathroom sign

Grammar Giggles – Ready for a Raod Trip

Ah, the news stations and the headline ribbons. This was shared with me by a friend and as I am leaving today for a quick rOAd trip, I thought it was appropriate to share with you. Happy Friday!

Raod Trips

Confused? Let’s Choose to Show We Chose the Right Word.

I keep seeing the same mistakes over and over with misusing words that are similarly spelled or are forms of other words and cause confusion.  I’ll try to make it more clear to make it easier to choose the right word.

Accept and Except – accept is to take or receive; except is to exclude.

  • She was able to accept the package for Jim. (She was able to RECEIVE the package)
  • Everyone was invited except Joe. (Joe was EXCLUDED from the invitation.)

Affect and Effect – affect is to influence or to change; effect is the result or impression or to bring about.

  • The habit of coming in late had an affect on Sally’s raise this year. (Sally’s habit of coming in late INFLUENCED her raise.)
  • The effect of the rain was a beautiful rainbow and also several accidents on the rush hour drive home. (The beautiful rainbow and the accidents were the RESULT OF the rain.)

Choose and Chose – choose means to select; chose means you have already selected.

  • She will choose her car based on its color. (She will MAKE her selection of car based on color.)
  • She chose the red car. (She already MADE the selection of the red car.)

Ensure and Insure – ensure means to make certain; insure means to protect against loss.

  • He wanted to ensure the job was done correctly. (He wanted to MAKE CERTAIN the job was done correctly.)
  • She was able to insure her sports car. (She PROTECTED her sports car.)

Gibe and Jibe – gibe means a sarcastic remark or to scoff at; jibe means to agree.

  • The gibe about her hair color was hurtful. (The SARCASTIC REMARK about her hair color was hurtful.)
  • The figures didn’t jibe between the checking account and the accounting system. (The figures didn’t AGREE between the checking account and the accounting system.)

Its and It’s – its is the possessive form of it; it’s is the contraction for it is or it has. This is particularly confusing because most possessive forms use the apostrophe, but just remember if you cannot replace your word with “it is,” then you use “its.”

  • The dog chewed up its collar. (The collar BELONGED to the dog.)
  • It’s the third collar they had to buy the puppy. (IT IS the third collar.)

Know and No – know means to understand; no means not any.

  • I now know the correct usage of it’s. (I UNDERSTAND the correct usage of it’s.)
  • He has no money to go on vacation. (He does NOT HAVE ANY money to go on vacation.)

Loose and Lose – loose means not bound or to release; lose means to suffer the loss of.

  • The dog got loose from its leash and ran out of the yard. (The dog is NOT BOUND by its leash.)
  • She was afraid she would lose her dog once it got loose. (Now that the dog is loose, she may SUFFER THE LOSS OF the dog if he does not come home.)

Their and There – their means belonging to them; there means in that place.

  • Their house is the nicest on the block. (The house BELONGING TO THEM is the nicest on the block.)
  • The car is there in the driveway. (The car is IN THAT PLACE in the driveway.)

Your and You’re – your means that it belongs to you; you’re is the contraction for you are. This one is misused by most of the people I see on Facebook who are teens or preteens and even some young adults and makes me question how they are teaching this in school.

  • I thought you said my phone was in your purse? (The purse BELONGS to you.)
  • You’re going to the movies tonight, aren’t you? (YOU ARE going to the movies.)

I will have to print this list out for my grandchildren so I don’t get the urge to comment on their Facebook status to change it for them.

I hope the some of the confusion is cleared up. Are there words that are confusing to you? Comment below or email me at proofthatblog@gmail.com.

Grammar Giggles – Hold My Place, Will You?

Placeholders have a place–just make sure when you are proofreading that you check to make sure those placeholders have been replaced by what is supposed to be there. Otherwise, you end up with something like this newspaper headline.

Newspaper

Possessives with Personal Titles

A friend recently forwarded me a question about the first sentence in a brief for a state Court of Appeals that they wanted to make sure was correct.  The sentence was (which I have changed to protect her client):

  • In 2006 Mr. Smith did not dispute the facts set forth in Jim Jones’, Esq. opinion letter which established the sale of the business was XXX.

There is nothing specifically on point in the Gregg Reference Manual, but I did find a couple of places on the Internet where the question was answered with the example of “M.D.” In that case, for singular possession, you add “s” after the apostrophe, i.e., Jim Jones, M.D.’s diagnosis. The most prevalent use of what would be “Jim Jones, Esq.’s” is on LinkedIn–certainly not an expert in the grammar area–but makes the most sense and follows the example for M.D. I think the proper sentence would be:

  • In 2006 Mr. Smith did not dispute the facts set forth in Jim Jones, Esq.’s opinion letter which established the seller of the business was XXX.

The easiest answer is to reword the sentence:

  • In 2006 Mr. Smith did not dispute the facts set forth in attorney Jim Jones’ opinion letter which established the seller of the business was XXX.

OR

  • In 2006 Mr. Smith did not dispute the facts set forth in the opinion letter of Jim Jones, Esq. which established the seller of the business was XXX.

It was a great question and something that at first blush seems simple, but when you really think about it, it wasn’t quite so easy.

Anniversary

Today is the one year anniversary of the Proof That Proofreading Blog! Thanks for all the support! Here’s a Grammar Giggle about the importance of punctuation.

I’m not the easiest guy in the world to get along with. So when our anniversary rolled around, I wanted my wife to know how much I appreciated her tolerating me for the past 20 years. I ordered flowers and told the florist to enclose a card that read, “Thanks for putting up with me so long.”

When my wife got the delivery, she called me at work.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” I said.

She read the card aloud as the florist had written it: “Thanks for putting up with me. So long.”

—George Arnold, Melbourne, Florida

Read more: http://www.rd.com/jokes/funny/funny-stories/typo-through-the-tupils/#ixzz2dlt1srkO