Most of us understand that in the English language, to make a singular noun possessive, we typically add an apostrophe and an “s,” but many of us get confused when it comes to making a noun that already ends in “s,” possessive. Do we just do an apostrophe? Do we add another “s”? Do we do something else?
Hi all, I’m keeping it short, sweet, and (somewhat?) simple for today’s post, especially after finishing up that big series on plot, and I am covering an (oddly specific) topic that should be straightforward, but that can be surprisingly confusing. How do we make a noun that ends in “s” possessive, correctly? Specifically, how do we treat our characters’ names that end in “s”, to make them possessive?
This was an issue I ran into with my writing when I was a teenager, and even when studying English in college, for some reason the answer wasn’t readily available. I remember asking a friend whose name ended in “s” for the answer, and even he seemed unsure. As an editor, I still get asked about this situation every so often, so I thought it was worth posting about.
So what is the deal?
If you happen to be someone who’s been confused by this, guess what? The confusion is totally merited. This is because the answer to whether we write James’ or James’s is “it depends.”
It’s also confusing in part because you’ve seen it handled both ways.
The reason it’s handled both ways isn’t because of some fancy punctuation rule–it’s because it depends on the publishing house’s style sheet.