Acronyms, All Caps, Plurals, and Possessives

This topic came up recently in my own task of proofreading. If you have an acronym or another all capital letter word, how do you make it plural or possessive? And then once you do, is the added pluralization or possession in all caps or not?

The short answer is that any pluralization or possession is added to the base word, but in this case, it is NOT in all caps:

  • There are never any ATMs around when you need them.
  • ADOT’s signs don’t always help the traffic flow.

There are times where you will need to use an apostrophe to avoid confusion:

  • Her report card had all A’s and B’s.

Here, the “A’s and B’s” are not possessive, but it could be confusing to leave the apostrophe out in “As” as it is a different (and real) word. In this case, the apostrophe in “B’s” is for consistency.

There is some confusion when using abbreviations because making the abbreviations possessive may be different than making the entire original words possessive:

  • The United States’ geography is so varied and interesting.
  • The U.S.’s geography is so varied and interesting.

You will use the rules depending on how it sounds. The “United States” spelled out does not need an apostrophe and “s” because you don’t say the extra “s.” But using the abbreviation “U.S.,” you would say the extra “s,” so would add the apostrophe and “s.” See Apostrophail!.

Just remember that only the original acronym or abbreviation should be in caps and any pluralization or possession would be added to that, but not in caps.

Grammar Giggle – Cod Fillet’s and Bags

I found this in a grocery store in Albuquerque. If I were to read this sign literally, I would see that it is $9.99 for the Cod Fillet’s 16 oz. bag, which sounds significantly overpriced unless it is a designer bag. And to warrant a sign, that Cod Fillet must have more bags than some of my friends do. I’m pretty sure they meant to say that the $9.99 was for a 16 oz. bag of cod fillets, but that’s not what it actually says.

 

Cod

Grammar Giggle – Ladie’s Room

I caught this one on a trip back from Albuquerque recently. Even my grandchildren knew this was wrong (since they had to figure out why I had my phone out taking a picture in the middle of a store).

Grammar Giggle – This Shows Possession Not Pluralization!

This is on the window of a restaurant next to my office building. As used here, this leads me to believe that either the gyro owns the sandwich and the platter, the owner’s name is Gyro, or it is the name of the business. All of those choices are incorrect (because I have eaten there and know it is your typical gyro) or I wouldn’t feel the need to pull out my phone as I was walking by. There should be no apostrophe at all so that you know they are selling more than one gyro (or it would be a VERY short lunch rush). If you missed my article about apostrophes, check it out here and then quit using them to make words plural . . . please!

Grammar Giggle – Gas Pumps and Every Possible Grammar Error

There are so many errors in this one sign I don’t think I could even get through them all. There are apostrophes used to make words plural, not enough periods, words that should be a single word divided into two words, capital letters where there doesn’t need to be or a small letter (if you want to be consistent) where a capital letter should be, misspellings . . . and my brain has now exploded.

Grammar Giggle – Thankyourmamasgiving

Random apostrophes–love them! The only reason a word like this would ever have an apostrophe would be if letters were missing, as in Thank[your mama]sgiving. Otherwise, as in this example, I have no idea why there would be an apostrophe in the middle of this word.

ThanksgivingWednesday

Grammar Giggles – Teachers, Teacher’s, Teachers’

Apparently, according to this news story, only one teacher across the nation is striking. That is because they made the singular word teacher possessive by adding apostrophe “s” rather than making the plural word teachers possessive by just adding an apostrophe. It seems that a strike would be so much more effective if multiple teachers across this great nation were involved.

Teacher's Strike

Grammar Giggle – Presidents Day

Happy Presidents Day! I’m assuming this school was talking about the holiday honoring ALL of the U.S. Presidents and not just one President. Remember, with apostrophes you start with the correct word–in this case, “Presidents” because you’re talking about all the Presidents–and then make it possessive by adding an apostrophe (and an “s” if necessary). NOTE: various sources disagree about whether the apostrophe belongs at all. Since the apostrophe denotes possession and the holiday is to honor U.S. Presidents and not a day that belongs to those Presidents, no apostrophe is probably more correct. In any event, this school sign is obviously incorrect.

image

Plurals, Possessives, and Surnames Oh My!

10709367_s

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 – Elementary School Yearbook’s

My granddaughter brought her yearbook over to show me this weekend. I started thumbing through it and was unbelievably discouraged at the multiple (as in more than one, more than two, I stopped counting) errors. Even if the school itself didn’t put the yearbook together, it has their name all over it and represents their school, so SOMEONE should have at least looked at it to make sure it was correct. Maybe the sixth graders should have proofread it. My son asked me not to post a link on the PTO’s Facebook page, so I will just use it for Grammar Giggles (or perhaps Grammar Groan is more appropriate). But I couldn’t resist using the page that had my beautiful granddaughter’s picture on it (since I had my choice of every page of sixth graders) even though it showcases my number one grammar pet peeve–apostrophes for plurals!

School yearbook