Posts Tagged ‘Possessives’

May 25, 2015

On Writing: Those Pesky Possessives


Awhile back, I helped the ladies of our church proof  a cookbook before sending it to the printer. 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.

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.
Some Singulars: child, lunch, sheep, lady, man, passerby:

Singular Possessive: child’s, lunch’s, sheep’s, lady’s, man’s, passerby’s

Plural:  children, lunches, sheep, ladies, men, passersby

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 some help for these pesky possessives that you sometimes see rarely and might use barely at all. Yet, when one pops up in your manuscript, maybe this little blog will help you use the correct form.

On another note, make plans to join the Odd Duck Society and attend the Montrose Christian Writers Conference this July 19th-24th. The faculty of 16 includes award-winning authors, editors, and an agent, all eager to sit down with you and discuss your projects. You might go home with a contract!



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