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Posts Tagged ‘how to use some possessives’

PESKY POSSESSIVES

I few years ago, I helped the ladies of our church compile a cookbook. One of the questionable terms that came up in a few of the recipes was “confectioner’s sugar.” Did it have an apostrophe or not?

I checked out a bag of the little white powder at the grocery store, and the manufacturing company had it spelled “confectioners sugar” on the label.

One of the gals in the church took the time to look up possessives in an English book and found that, at least, in her resource, confectioner DOES use an apostrophe in this phrase: confectioner’s sugar.

Publisher’s choice? This is often the case with punctuation, and, unfortunately, the rules always seem to be changing.

So, FYI, I’ve included just a few of those pesky possessive rules for you to ponder. But don’t bet your life on any of these; in a year or two, some could be different, or the editor with whom you work might have her own idea.

Just try to understand the pesky possessive’s point of view.

Possessives

Generally, a possessive is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s to a word that does not end in s, and only an apostrophe to a word that does end in s. An apostrophe is not added to plurals. 
Singular   

Mr. Brooks
child
lunch
sheep
lady
man

Singular Possessive

child’s
lunch’s
sheep’s
lady’s
man’s
passerby’s

Plural
The Brookses (no apostrophe)
children
lunches
sheep
ladies
men

Plural Possessive

children’s
lunches’
sheep’s
ladies’
men’s
passersbys’

Add an apostrophe to a word that ends in an s sound.
for old times’ sake
for conscience’ sake
for appearance’ sake:
Add an apostrophe and an s to a foreign name ending in a silent sibilant.
Descartes’s invention
Des Moines’s schools


faux pas’s
Add an apostrophe and an s to the last word of a singular compound noun.
the Governor of Maine’s
the attorney general’s

Indicate common possession by making only the last item in a series possessive.
Teddy, Peggy, and Nancy’s home

Indicate individual possession by making each item in a series possessive.
Teddy’s, Peggy’s, and Nancy’s homes

The following types of possessives should be written as singulars.
artist’s paintbrush
baker’s yeast
farmer’s market
confectioner’s sugar
florist’s wire
printer’s ink
writer’s cramp
painter’s tape

So there you have a few tips about using possessives. They’re tricky, so be careful, and your writing will improve as you learn these possessive rules.

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