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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