Apostrophe Decision Chart

After a recent Proof That blog post about apostrophes and plurals, I had someone ask the question about words that end in “s” and how you make those words possessive. As much as I see it done wrong and as many questions as I get regarding plurals vs. possessives, I know it is a difficult concept to grasp, so I introduce an Apostrophe Decision Chart! You just check the boxes that answer the question about what you’re trying to do and it will help you decide if your word is possessive and needs an apostrophe, is a plural, or just needs to be left alone. There are several articles and Grammar Giggles on Proof That blog about apostrophes, possessives, and plurals, including one of the very first blog posts “Apostrophail.” You can search proofthatblog.com in the search box on the right-hand side of the home page for other articles about apostrophes and other topics you may be struggling with. But for this Apostrophe Decision Chart, let me know if it helps you or if it just complicates things for you. Everyone learns differently and my hope is that this will help those who need it to have an easier time figuring out whether or not to use an apostrophe and then how to use the apostrophe if one is needed. The Apostrophe Decision Chart is located in the Files section of proofthatblog.com or click here.

“Apostrophe, Brunswick Centre, London WC1” by Kake . is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Grammar Giggle – NFL News

A local newspaper was apparently so intent on getting news out about rumors of a possible NFL trade that they forgot to read the news story. Here is just one paragraph of that story that I found three errors in–and I’m not even a real football fan!

Happy Presidents’ Day!

There is some discussion about the apostrophe for President’s/Presidents’/Presidents Day. Some say it is only to recognize the current sitting President, which would make it “President’s” Day. Others say the day doesn’t belong to any of the Presidents, so it doesn’t need an apostrophe at all, and I think the rest of them don’t know which way is correct, so they just put one where they always do just to make the darn word plural.

My thought is that it is a national holiday designated to recognize all of the U.S. Presidents, so since the word Presidents is plural, you just need an apostrophe to show that the holiday belongs to all of the Presidents. Just remember to look at the base word without changing anything first. Is it singular? Is it plural? Then decide how you will make it possessive. There is more about that topic here.

Grammar Giggles – It’s or Its?

This was on my television as I was checking out the available entertainment this weekend. “It’s” is not the possessive form of “it,” it is a contraction for “it is.” It is confusing because to make other words possessive, you add apostrophe “s,” but with the word “it,” the apostrophe “s” is only added to make it a contraction. Otherwise, “its” is the possessive form of “it.”

Grammar Giggle – His’ Apartment

This was a local news story and although I feared the apostrophe in “his” was something on my phone, it was not. And then I found the second error. Tucson, Arizona, is spelled “T U C S O N,” although it is frequently misspelled. But for an Arizona news station to misspell it–in the same article that they added an apostrophe to “his”–is inexcusable. “His” doesn’t need an apostrophe because the word itself means that it belongs to him so there is no other possessive for HIS apartment.

Grammar Giggle – Gentleman’s Club

Sorry fellas. It looks like this special club is for only one gentleman at a time. Otherwise, it would be a “gentlemen’s” club. I found this one on my Bar Rescue marathon recently. I particularly liked that Jon Taffer, the star of the show, mentioned that it was misspelled. Now whether he knew that or one of the people working behind the scenes mentioned it, I don’t know, but they did and it caught my attention. When making a word possessive, start with the correct root word. In this case, since the club is for gentlemEn, it should be a gentlemen’s club. And it SHOULD have an apostrophe!

Grammar Giggle – Barbie’s

This was a picture I took of a Christmas gift for my youngest granddaughter. It highlights the improper use of an apostrophe. What exactly belongs to Barbie? Or are you talking about more than one Barbie? Perhaps you’re talking about 20 Barbies? If this had said 20 Barbies and Barbie’s accessories, then the apostrophe in the second “Barbie” would be correct because you’re talking about accessories belonging to Barbie. As it is here, the apostrophe is incorrect because you’re talking about 20 Barbies so it is plural NOT possessive.

Barbies2

ENCORE – Plurals, Possessives, and Surnames Oh My!

Name2Since some people will be sending out holiday cards and/or letters soon (if they haven’t already), I thought it was time to rerun a blog post about making last names plural and possessive. If you are sending cards out for your whole family, please pay attention to this.

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 sxchsh, 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.

Grammar Giggle – State of Uniom

While everyone has probably seen this one already, my son sent this to me and I thought it was interesting. Not only is “Union” spelled wrong, requiring them to reprint all of the invitations to the State of the Union Address, but I think that the Gallery is set up for more than one Visitor, so it should be the Visitors’ Gallery. I checked the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center website to try to figure out what they call it, and I find reference to “the Visitor Galleries,” which would be correct as it is a name for that area of the Capitol, and “the House and Senate Galleries,” but I find no reference to the “Visitor’s Gallery.” I’m thinking they didn’t fix that error when they reprinted the invitations because it isn’t an obvious error–to most people.

State of the Uniom