One of the most confusing punctuation rules is when to use an apostrophe to make a name possessive if it ends in S.

Names not ending in S are easy:

  • Jack’s toy
  • Jill’s microscope
  • Jeremy’s doll
  • Jane’s plane

When a name ends in S, it throws people off. Take James, for example. Some people might be tempted when following the pattern in the list above to write it as Jame’s. Others might be tempted to add treat it as any other name, that is James’s. Still others want to write it without the extra S: James’.

So which is it?

Well, it actually depends on how your pronounce the plural possessive. Oxford Dictionary tells us:

With personal names that end in -s: add an apostrophe plus s when you would naturally pronounce an extra s if you said the word out loud . . . With personal names that end in -s but are not spoken with an extra s: just add an apostrophe after the -s.

For James, the plural possessive sounds as if it has two S sounds when we pronounce it, so we would use an apostrophe and an S. Here are some more examples:

  • James’s father is in the hospital.
  • The report clarified Perkins’ job evaluation.
  • We all went over to Charles’s house.
  • Have you seen Frances’ new car?


About Kim Siever

I am a copywriter and copyeditor. I blog on writing tips mostly, but I sometimes throw in my thoughts about running a small business. Follow me on Twitter at @hotpepper.

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