Intensive Purposes: Apostrophes pt. 2

writing editing essay

writing editing essay

As promised, here’s the continuation of our mini-lesson on apostrophes! I’m so glad you’ve found this series helpful, and a big thanks to so many of you for all of your suggestions and grammar questions. Keep ’em coming!

Names and proper nouns that end in -s seem to be a point of confusion and grammar anxiety for many; is it Charles’s pancakes or Charles’ pancakes? A dilemma for sure. Lucky for you, there’s an easy answer:

…it’s whatever you want it to be!

Technically, it’s a matter of what style guide you follow. Some style guides will tell you to pretty much always add -‘s to a word, regardless of it ending in a final -s (plural nouns are a bit different, if you remember from Apostrophes part 1). The Associated Press stylebook, however, recommends dropping the extra ‘s’ and going the route of “Charles’ pancakes”.

Some argue that if you would say the extra -s aloud while talking about “Charles’s pancakes” or “Dickens’s book”, then you should write -‘s. But again, it’s up to you and the style guide you follow. Personally, I like to clean up my writing and ditch the extra -s.

Are you an -‘s person, or do you take the minimalist, AP stylebook route too?

A play on the misquoted phrase “for all intents and purposes”, Intensive Purposes tackles one grammar rule or English language tip — from proper punctuation to misused phrases — in an easy-to-understand mini-lesson. 

  • Oh nice, I’ll continue with my high school rule to not add an extra -s! 🙂

    Thanks, Kristin <3

    • You’re welcome! I feel like half of the English language is just “up to you!” No wonder it’s so confusing.

  • Kay

    Good to know! I like the look of not adding the extra -s much better, so I’ll probably stick with that.

    • Go for it! I think it eliminates a lot of goofy looking words, which I’m all for.

  • Jess @

    Uh, I love the grammar lessons. Seriously. Keep them coming!

  • The Nintendo style guide always had the extra s, which I really hated. It just looks silly to me.

    • Most times it just ends up looking silly/confusing to me too. I can’t wrap my head around who thought that’d be a good idea in the first place.

  • I feel so much more grammar nerd-y when I drop the extra -s at the end. That said, it depends on if it’s one person or a whole bunch. I tend to write write the Roberts’ porch and Charles’s pancakes. No one style guide can hold me down!

    • Agreed! I think it just depends on how I say it in my head: “Charles-es” versus “Roberts”. That kind of thing. No style guide limits! You go!

  • I usually ditch the extra s just because I like the way it looks without it and everyone knows that Charles’ is pronounced Charles’s anyway. Great post!

  • Didn’t see this before! Kristin I love your post ideas. I need grammar help!!

    Just got the Elements of Style from the library and I’m obsessed with it. (for the record they say to add the extra s) Might buy it, but the problem is everyone has a different set of rules when I apply for jobs. Is there one site that puts all the rules side by side? 🙂

    • Are you talking like a comparison of APA/MLA/all of the different formatting guides? Because there might be a lot of rules to cover in a succinct list/graphic. If you’re just applying to jobs, most shouldn’t be so picky to care; as long as you’re using one of the “big” style guides like MLA, etc. you should be fine.

      It’s not side-by-side, but OWL @ Purdue is one of my favorite citation resources; you can scroll down and find their APA guide in the lefthand sidebar, but here’s the MLA link:

      • The ones I’ve seen most are AP, but sometimes there are others mentioned. Not sure I can grasp all the styles quickly. Love Purdue. Will check that out. Thanks!