The Pope In The US: Francis’ or Francis’s visit?

Grammar associated with Pope Francis visit to USAWhat a thrill and honor it was for the United States to host Pope Francis in September on his first visit to this country. He made headlines wherever he went. These two especially caught my eye:

How Much is Pope Francis’s Visit Costing the U.S.?

Pope Francis’ Challenge to America

Which is the grammatically correct way to punctuate a possessive in a name that ends in s such as Francis — or Jesus? Which headline has is right?

I had to consult my Associated Press Stylebook to refresh my memory.

To show possession in a name (proper noun) that ends in s, add only an apostrophe:
Francis’ visit
Jesus’ life
Achilles’ heel
Dickens’ novels
Kansas’ schools

To show possession with common nouns ending in s, add an apostrophe and an unless the next word begins with s:
the hostess’s invitation / the hostess’ seat
the witness’s response / the witness’ story
the class’s choice / the class’ silly mascot
the press’s persistence / the press’ style

Of course there are exceptions; after all, this is English.

If a word ends with the s sound and the word that follows begins with an s, don’t add an s:
for appearance’ sake
for conscience’ sake

If the word ends with the s sound and the word that follows it does not begin with an s, add an apostrophe and an s:
the appearance’s cost
my conscience’s voice

There are too many grammar rules for any of us to remember them all — even a ruthless editor like me.

But I like keeping my finger on the pulse of today’s grammar challenges. Don’t hesitate to pop me an email if you have a usage question or grammar dilemma.

And if you’re not on my email list to get a notice of my latest Killer Tips from a Ruthless Editor, sign up today!




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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)