1. adrenaline7
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    adrenaline7 Member

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    Possessive apostrophe and names ending in "s".

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by adrenaline7, Sep 24, 2011.

    Hey guys, I've always been confused with this. A character's name ends with "s" (eg. James) and I'm wanting to describe something he possesses.

    Is it generally more coherent if I just add the apostrophe, as in James', or should I add an extra "s" on the end to make it James's?

    I'm okay with general objects and their possessives, but names have always got to me.
     
  2. MarmaladeQueen
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    MarmaladeQueen Senior Member

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    I always struggle with James's as well. My rather excellent grammar book ("My Grammar and I (or should that be me?") says James's, not James'. The author argues that at one time in the history of the English language, it would have been written Jameses and so, having dropped the "e", we need to add the apostrophe to mark the missing "e". Hope that helps.
     
  3. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that nowadays it should be James's. I think MarmaladeQueen's grammar book is ambitious in trying to apply logic to English, but that is the modern convention. It's worth noting that it was not always so, and that classical names are often written with just a trailing apostrophe -- Socrates' writings, Jesus' love. ("Jesus" is a particularly complicated case because of anglicisation issues -- Jesu's is more faithful to the original Aramaic, and you'll find that in old hymns, but it sounds very dated now.)

    Oh, and if you have two people called James, they are Jameses, and the possessive is Jameses'. "The Jameses' surnames are Smith and Bloggs."
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The old standard was to simply end with the apostrophe, but that is no longer the preferred style. In some specific cases, the old standard does prevail. For example, :In Jesus' name" is still preferred.

    However, in general, the contemporary standard is to append tje apostrophe and the s: "Jess's cat turned up at James's house after vanishing for six months."
     
  5. adrenaline7
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    adrenaline7 Member

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    Thanks guys. Because of this, I've always tried to stay away from characters with names that end with "s". I've always felt more comfortable with just the apostrophe, but if contemporary English is swinging the other way, I don't mind swinging too. And although I don't see myself writing anything which would include Socrates or Jesus any time soon, it's good to know when I could apply just the apostrophe.
     
  6. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I can see going crazy with the ssssss if you didn't end with the ' at the end of plural possesive Jameses's'e:eek:s's''e'e'e's
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds liks a snake with a stutter.

    Or a snickering snivelly serpent.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is covered on page 1 of Strunk and White (a book I usually criticize, but they're right in this case. They use

    Charles's friend
    Burns's poems

    as correct examples. They allow for exceptions in the case of ancient proper names (Jesus').

    Ann Stilman's "Grammatically Correct" allows both formations:

    Dickens's novels, or Dickens' novels

    but she says if in doubt, include the extra s. She lists some exceptions:

    Achilles' heel
    Euripides' plays
    Brahms' lullaby
    for goodness' sake

    and a few others.

    This might be helpful or it might not. Authorities disagree at times. I guess the best thing to do is to consult the standards of the publication you're writing for. The Chicago Manual of Style, for example.
     
  9. Lost_in_Thought
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    Lost_in_Thought Member

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    When I was younger we had a James in our class we always wrote James' and that how he perfered it (we also had an old grouch of a teacher who insisted it) but to this day I hate writing out James's it doesn't look right to me. But acording to another teacher of mine they are both correct. The way they use to spell it in the past as Queen said might be true, but back then spelling changed from town to town. In fact there was more the 20 ways to spell Shakespeare's name! And if it was spelt Jameses at one point James' would still be correct for a apostrophe can be used to replace two letters(such as I'll [I and will]). And truthfully I think the morden James's might just be a cause of lazy teachers not telling kids that its like James'. But its all a matter of perference.


    Oh and FYI I'm not some old hag stuck in old ways, I'm a teenager.
     
  10. skeloboy_97
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    skeloboy_97 Senior Member

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    I always thought James' was correct. We had a mini-debate in sixth grade about this, as my friends name was Rhys. Him and I believed it should have been 'Rhys' Cat,' and she believed it was 'Rhys's cat.'
     
  11. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    It is correct, both are actually (James' and James's, and Rhys' and Rhys's). Although I've heard from a few folks that the apostrophe 's' is preferred, I still end with just an apostrophe in such cases because it looks better to me. There's no need to populate the page with additional "S's" if the same message can be delivered without them. I view this as a clarity issue. If there's the least bit of confusion possible by ending with just an apostrophe, add the "s" afterwards.
     
  12. Melanie
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    Melanie Member

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    I always end in an apostrophe and probably always will. That's the way I was taught as well as the way I pronounce it.
     
  13. CULLEN DORN
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    CULLEN DORN Member

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    Same here with me.
     
  14. WhooshHayley
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    WhooshHayley New Member

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    This has always been a curiosity for me too, but a recent publisher's house style guide gave me a great answer a few months ago that I've been using since. I'm not sure how correct it is, but it's definitely logical and reflects the contemporary James's trend:

    James's (belonging to James)
    James' (I'm going over to the James' house)

    If the word ending in s is plural, a second s is unnecessary.
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't see the logic there. Is the surname in the second example supposed to be 'Jame'? Otherwise the word ending in 's' wouldn't be a plural.
     
  16. WhooshHayley
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    WhooshHayley New Member

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    Quoting the style guide:

    "Add 's' after the apostrophe in the singular, e.g. Dickens's books
    An apostrophe only in the plural, e.g. The Dickens' dog"

    Maybe my James example is not as clear.
    You could, of course, argue that the Dickens family is a single entity rather than 'many Dickens', but this is starting to make my head hurt!
    As with all style guides written by publishers, they aim first to provide rulings that allow editors to be consistent throughout. As I said in my first post, I can't vouch for this as a final solution to the problem.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    when in doubt, chicken out!

    and so on!
     
  18. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    And never name your characters anything ending in 's'. I changed a Mrs Collins to Mrs Crosby because of the headaches it caused.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    best solution yet!
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I cry fowl at chickening out.

    Strike boldly forth, and fear not the Princess's petulant pique.
     
  21. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Seconded! With an exclamation mark!
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...and avoid asinine alliteration at any account!
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Spoilsport!
     
  24. chellelouj16
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    chellelouj16 New Member

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    Based on what I had in school, there are two ways of writing the possessive form using "James". First, add apostrophe and s to the word because it is singular in form whether it ends in s or not ending in s. An example is James's pencils. Secondly, add an apostrophe if the following noun/word starts with s. An example is James' shoes.
     
  25. mammamaia
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    still reads so awkwardly, i'd use any of the many ways there are to avoid having to make the name possessive...
     

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