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Plurals and apostrophes

Back to the basics with regular Challenge winner, Ann Grover. Weekly lessons to help you hone your basic writing skills.

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Anja
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Plurals and apostrophes

Postby Anja » Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:53 am

I have to address this.
I can't stand it anymore.
If I had a nickel for every time I saw a plural written with an apostrophe, I'd be sitting on a beach somewhere right now. And I'm seeing it on FB and forum posts belonging to writers . . . homeschooling moms . . .

It is four dogs. Not four dog's.

Six tables. Not six table's.

Nine banana splits. Girls. Socks. Gardens.

And while we're at it, if you have a sign by your driveway or on your mailbox, and it says "The Hamilton's," go chisel it off or paint over it. You are The Hamiltons. A collection of people with the surname Hamilton. Otherwise, it's The Hamilton's . . . what? Something that belongs to ONE Hamilton, but what is it?

I suppose by implication it is the Hamilton's home . . . or the Hamilton's mailbox. But even so, assuming more than one Hamilton lives there, it would be The Hamiltons'.

If your surname is Thomas, your mailbox will read The Thomases. You will sign Christmas cards From the Thomases. Or the Thomas Tribe, if you're not sure about leaving out that incorrigible apostrophe. PLEASE do not sign, From The Thomas's . . . or The Thomas'.

Please.

Thank you. :D
Ann Grover

"What remains of a story after it is finished? Another story..." Eli Wiesel

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Re: Plurals and apostrophes

Postby RedBaron » Thu Apr 05, 2012 12:38 pm

:clap :superhappy :clap :superhappy :clap :superhappy
<><
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Re: Plurals and apostrophes

Postby lish1936 » Fri Apr 06, 2012 5:58 pm

Anja wrote:If your surname is Thomas, your mailbox will read The Thomases. You will sign Christmas cards From the Thomases. Or the Thomas Tribe, if you're not sure about leaving out that incorrigible apostrophe. PLEASE do not sign, From The Thomas's . . . or The Thomas'.

Please.

Thank you. :D



Thanks, Ann.

When you vent, we all benefit. :D I think the following is correct because you're addressing plurals, not possessives. But tell me if I'm wrong.

Thomas' dog ran right in front of the car.
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Re: Plurals and apostrophes

Postby Anja » Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:57 pm

lish1936 wrote:
When you vent, we all benefit. :D I think the following is correct because you're addressing plurals, not possessives. But tell me if I'm wrong.

Thomas' dog ran right in front of the car.


I hope it wasn't a nasty vent. :D

Thomas' dog . . .

There is a teaching that says this is correct. I must humbly disagree.

When you are referring to something belonging to Thomas', as in Thomas's dog, there is another syllable. Hear it? Thomas. Thomas . . . s dog. Therefore, there should be an apostrophe AND an 's' to show possession.

If there is no difference in the way it's pronounced, then NO "s." As in Jesus'. Or Moses'. You wouldn't say Moses - es sandals. Or Jesus - es cross. Is that clear as mud?

If you can comfortably SAY the extra "s", then it must be added.

So it would be Charles's. Thomas's. Les's. Amaris's. (My daughter!) The boss's.

But Jesus'. Moses'. Ulysses'.

I'm saying pronunciation is the key as to whether you add an apostrophe OR an apostrophe and the letter "s".

This was the rule when I went to school and the last time I referred to Strunk. Checking my old standby Correct Writing by Butler, Hickman, and Overby right beside me also says this is correct.

Thank you for asking, although I dread this question coming up because of the overwhelming belief that it's correct to "just add an apostrophe to any word ending in 's' to show possession."

Another one of my soapboxes.
Last edited by Anja on Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Plurals and apostrophes

Postby lish1936 » Fri Apr 06, 2012 8:22 pm

So glad I asked. :D :wink:

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Re: Plurals and apostrophes

Postby Anja » Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:12 am

I'm not really as snotty or snarky as my posts sound. Honestly.

I get too carried away with words and more words because I think I might not be clear. It doesn't even sound clear to me. I apologize.

:? :oops: :D
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Re: Plurals and apostrophes

Postby lish1936 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 3:59 am

:typing2 That's okay, Anne.
When you mentioned Strunk, you forced me to pull out a yellowing, frayed paperback copy of
The Elements of Style that belonged to my son when he was in High School. To put the age of the book ( the book's age :-]) in perspective, his youngest son just graduated from High School.

Of course, Strunk is known to say more with less, so if there had been any confusion (but there wasn't), he would have removed it. It's interesting to note he also mentioned that Moses' laws is generally written as the law of Moses. And conscience' sake and righteousness' also fall into the exception column.

Take heart, the best teacher is one who motivates the student to pursue knowledge. You qualify. :D

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"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Plurals and apostrophes

Postby swfdoc1 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:26 am

lish1936 wrote:And conscience' sake and righteousness' also fall into the exception column.


Right. Most (but certainly not all) style guides adopt this approach. But conscience' sake and righteousness' sake are not stand alone exceptions, they're examples of a rule. It's the "three sibilant rule." (A sibilant is roughly an "s" or "sh" sound, however spelled--such as "ce" in conscience" and "ss" in righteousness".) You want to avoid 3 in a row, and you have to look at the first word, the possessive, AND the following word. In this case "sake" provides the third sibilant, so you drop the "s" for the possessive so that you get just 2 sibilants.

So in Ann's example, "Thomas's dog" is, as she wrote, correct. BUT it would be, for example, "Thomas' shadow." Again, there are style guides that have different rules. Sometimes the "right" way sounds better and sometimes the "wrong" way sounds better (under the 3 sibilant rule or any other different approach), and more and more people are going with a "how it sounds" approach.

I think the 3 sibilant rule explains the so-called exception for ancient names--Jesus’, Moses', etc. Dropping the possessive "s" just adheres to the 3 sibilant rules, which (I think) used to be more universal. As it has become more debated, someone decided it should be kept at least for names whose usage is so wide spread.
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Re: Plurals and apostrophes

Postby Anja » Sat Apr 07, 2012 11:10 am

Thank you, Steve and Lillian, both for backing up the "rule" and explaining it so much better than I did.

Sometimes the "right" way sounds better and sometimes the "wrong" way sounds better (under the 3 sibilant rule or any other different approach), and more and more people are going with a "how it sounds" approach.


I just wanted to highlight this. For whatever reason. It just resonates with me.
At the same time, we've adopted speech and grammar patterns that sound right, only by virtue of the fact that we've heard them so often we've become "tone-deaf" to the errors.

Fine for dialogue, but not for prose or essays.
Ann Grover

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Re: Plurals and apostrophes

Postby swfdoc1 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:28 pm

Anja wrote:At the same time, we've adopted speech and grammar patterns that sound right, only by virtue of the fact that we've heard them so often we've become "tone-deaf" to the errors.

Fine for dialogue, but not for prose or essays.


I agree completely.

Unfortunately, style guides are in dispute on this point. Therefore, as you or someone said in a recent thread somewhere, always know the style guide that will control what you are submitting. When there is no controlling style guide, I always pick the rule (among conflicting rules) that makes things clearest for the reader (e.g., including the final serial comma as opposed to omitting it). When no style guide controls AND competing rules provide no difference in clarity, I almost always choose the older rule. They are invariably based on some logical underpinning. Modern competing rules tend to be based on a "it-doesn't really-matter-anyway-and just-write-like-you-talk attitude." As you say, this just re-enforces tone deafness. It also encourages a lackadaisical attitude toward craft.
Steve
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things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Re: Plurals and apostrophes

Postby revclaudio » Fri Apr 27, 2012 3:31 pm

Thanks Ann ... I appreciate the venting and no it wasn't nasty at all. Drives me crazy too. Keep venting!

:)


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