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Get Your Grammar Fix(ed): Apostrophe S vs. S Apostrophe

How do you know whether to use apostrophe S or S apostrophe?

First, of all, not for a plural.  

SO rarely (1970s, CDs, and other such numbers and abbreviations). But guitar's, bass, and amp's? No.

Now, sometimes you need to make a word possessive. It's got to show ownership. Some people think the rule is, "If the word ends in S, no matter what it is, just add an apostrophe."


Many words that end in S don't get the S-Apostrophe. 
In fact, only PLURAL nouns THAT END IN S do

Exceptions to this rule are truly, truly RARE. Unique, even.

I'll say it again:

Add only an apostrophe to make plural words that end in S possessive. Everything else gets Apostrophe-S.


Coach picked up the quarterback's jersey and tossed it on the bench.

Several other boys' towels scattered the floor of the locker room. These kids needed a lesson in follow-through.

Let's JUST look at "boy" for a moment. It'll make this simple.

one boy's towel
several boys' towels

The second gets the S-Apostrophe because "boys" is plural. But if the word can be made plural WITHOUT an S, then it still gets an Apostrophe-S.
The child's toy
Ten children's toys
The sheep's foot
All the sheep's wool
The man's mustache
All the men's mustaches (on Mustache Tuesday)

Names seem to be the most difficult for S-Apostrophe addicts to quit.

Gus picked up Shawn's hoodie and hung it on the faux-psychic's chair.

Shawn thanked his pal by logging into Gus's account and taking an exam for him. He nailed it. (Well, almost nailed it. Definitely didn't blow it.)

Now, a lot of people would want to say Gus' account. But that would only work if we're talking about more than one "Gu" holding accounts. 

Prince Charles's fame
Jesus's words
Mr. Jones's blazer
The boss's expectations 

And for those names/nouns which have an unpronounced S? The same rule applies.
The marquis's manservant 
Descartes's ideas

Some of you are reading this and wanting to stomp MY foot. This rule has been debated over the Grammar Ages. If you learned it differently, you don't have to turn into a teacher-hater. 

But if you want to write today, you need to learn today's rules. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, is the current grammar/style bible for fiction writers and editors. It allows for a few exceptions (which is when hiring an editor or owning your own copy comes in handy). 

So there you have it. And remember, possession is nine-tenth's. 

And hey! There hasn't been a ton of participation in the (easy) contest for a free five-page edit. Hurry over and enter. May the odds be ever in your favor.

 Thanks to Pheezy and Yahoo! Inc. for the images.


  1. Bethany,

    Your comment: Some people think the rule is, "If the word ends in S, no matter what it is, just add an apostrophe." That could be because way back in the olden days, that *was* the rule. "James' book" was considered correct.

    Thanks for helping us keep up-to-date on the current rules.

    1. Lora, that's also been the rule off and on over the last few decades. These things are always changing. It also depends what you're writing and why. Different style guides still allow for that. I certainly won't even think about stomping your foot. *wink* I only feel that way about people who don't try to understand and just want to come up with something easy. I love it when people want to know. And since we can't be too dogmatic about anything, it helps to keep on buying or subscribing to the most current guide for your publishing field. Thanks for commenting. Bless ya!

  2. Those pictures are HI-larious.

    1. Right? "Mustache Tuesday" made me laugh out loud. In the most literal sense possible.

  3. I give thanks to my three sons and their homework for helping me through a later-in-life apostrophe crisis!

    1. Glad you got it, girl! :) I learn a lot from helping my kids, too.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. YAY! Your picture's back. That gray circle kept giving me a sad.


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