Singular Possessive

Which is proper?


  • Total voters
    80

nbs2

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Mar 31, 2004
2,713
485
A geographical oddity
A raging debate has developed at work today - does a word that ends with 's' in the singlar, when being being made possessive, get just an aposterphe or does it get get an aposterphe+s?

In other words, is it James's or James'?
 

Oryan

macrumors 6502a
Apr 1, 2005
596
0
Lincoln, NE
I might be a little biased since I have a short name that ends in "s". I would use James' simply because it looks better. I believe James's is proper, though.
 

Kernow

macrumors 65816
Sep 30, 2005
1,438
0
Kingston-Upon-Thames
I've always used James'

There may be regional/national differences though. I remember from a few of the grammar type threads that the UK and US do things differently in some cases.
 

thejadedmonkey

macrumors G3
May 28, 2005
8,032
649
Pennsylvania
Thinking back to 6th grade, there was a kid named Ross in my class, and we were learning ourselves some grammer. Ross's pencil is just as correct as Ross' pencil. Either one will do, but we all agreed that Ross' pencil looked cooler.
 

savar

macrumors 68000
Jun 6, 2003
1,952
0
District of Columbia
iSaint said:
James' is proper.
I always use Strunk and White as a grammar reference.

According to them, James' is proper.

However, they suggest that for some historical names you could add 's to the end: e.g. Jesus's followers. I can't remember the logic any more but I usually follow that rule.
 

thedude110

macrumors 68020
Jun 13, 2005
2,478
2
Applespider said:
I was always taught that James' was correct but James's does now appear to becoming more visible in the wider world.
Dead on. James' is right. But dying.

Restart this thread in 2015. Bet James's will win the poll.

Too bad, really. All that extra time being spent on all those extra esses (plural of s?).

Waste of alphabet.
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,777
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
But there are also prominent style guides that say James's is correct -- MLA is one, I believe. I actually had traditionally used James' and switched because I saw this.... IIRC APA's style guide (which most affects me) echoed MLA on this.
 

thedude110

macrumors 68020
Jun 13, 2005
2,478
2
mkrishnan said:
MLA is one, I believe.
True. But the Modern Language Association is as antiquated as can be -- might as well be flappers!

The question should be: do we understand that the word James' is a singular possessive, or do we need to use James's to understand the intended meaning?

No need to muddle up the language (and its appearance) if we don't have to. It's as aesthetic as it is functional, anyway ...
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,777
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
thedude110 said:
Dead on. James' is right. But dying.
thedude110 said:
True. But the Modern Language Association is as antiquated as can be -- might as well be flappers!
You can't really have it both ways! :D First you said that James' is the older but more correct answer, which is dying off. Then you say that the style guides in support of the alternative are antiquated! ;)
 

xsedrinam

macrumors 601
Oct 21, 2004
4,347
1
thedude110 said:
Dead on. James' is right. But dying.

Restart this thread in 2015. Bet James's will win the poll.

Too bad, really. All that extra time being spent on all those extra esses (plural of s?).

Waste of alphabet.
I'm with this one. No way I'll accommodate Oxford's interpretation of possessive. James's will be no more than James' and I doubt an added letter will make him any the more, owner.
 

Brize

macrumors 6502a
Jun 13, 2004
732
0
Europe
thedude110 said:
True. But the Modern Language Association is as antiquated as can be -- might as well be flappers!
Using an apostrophe alone is somewhat antiquated in itself: it's modern usage that tends toward using the additional s for non-classical names.

Edit: In the UK, anyway.
 

Brize

macrumors 6502a
Jun 13, 2004
732
0
Europe
thedude110 said:
The question should be: do we understand that the word James' is a singular possessive, or do we need to use James's to understand the intended meaning?.
The problem with omitting the possessive s is that it doesn't actually read that way, and can therefore be somewhat jarring. With this in mind, I defer to the Guardian style guide, which indicates that the additional s should be used where pronounced, and omitted otherwise.
 

emw

macrumors G4
Aug 2, 2004
11,177
0
I voted for James' if for no other reason than that's how I was taught. I agree with others' comments that the additional s is coming into more widespread use, even though I think it's unnecessary and the single apostrophe serves its purpose nicely in this case.
 

Cameront9

macrumors 6502a
Aug 6, 2006
790
90
English major here (Though certainly not a grammar expert). James' is what works for me, because that is what I was taught way back in elementary school..If it's a proper noun that ends in "s", it only gets an apostrophe to show possessive.

However, English is an evolving, living langauge, and both forms are accepted by most people as "correct." There is a trend in English to focus less on strict grammatical rules and more on simply expressing content. In other words, if the meaning is understood by the reader as the author intended, it's correct.
 
L

Lau

Guest
I find the whole thing annoying because I've always thought both look quite clumsy and wrong. But I was always taught James' is right, and I'm glad to see others say this, because I've been doubting myself lately as I've been seeing a lot of "s's" around.