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:
To show possession with common nouns ending in s, add an apostrophe and an s 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.
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