The Dangerous and Option-Filled World of Possessive Forms of Names and Words Ending in “s”

December 16th, 2010

Dear Charles:

One of the things that brings me joy is reading your words. I also love reading Rechelle Unplugged and how she can make me LOL! Now let me get to my question. I have a basset hound named Chaps. As you can see he has an s on the end of his name. Please, I am begging you, to help me with my blog. When I use his name how do I use an ’?

OK, here is an example.

Chaps son is chasing a toad.

You see this is very important to my blogging skills. How can I blog correctly if I don’t know how to use an ’? I have suffered over this on multiple blogs about Chaps.

Can you give me some examples as to how to use my hound’s name. Did I just use that ’ right?

I think that you learn how to do this in 2nd grade. I remember wanting to kiss the cute boy next to me instead.

Thank you Dear Charles for answering my blogging questions, not to mention listening about my 2nd grade crush.

Oh, by the way, you are my new crush!

I love you’s

Cat, Chaps and Emma /**\

Dear Cat, Chaps and Emma –

I am honored to be your new crush, and I will attempt to uphold the code of the crushee, whatever that may be, and to conduct myself in a proper, honest, and upright manner as befits the position as long as I am in it. If someone was going to take over for that boy in second grade who kept you from learning about the proper use of an apostrophe with a name ending in “s,” I’m glad it was me, as I can fill you in on what you missed while you were longing for that prepubescent kiss.

And what you missed (in addition to a few math and spelling fundamentals that you probably picked up later on in third grade, when you and your crushee ended up in separate classrooms and you were distraction free, and perhaps writing in cursive, which no one seems to do [except to sign their name] once they’ve finished learning it) was this:

You have two options when it comes to using an apostrophe with a word ending in “s.” You can (i) stick the apostrophe at the end of the word or name without adding an extra “s” (“Chaps’ son has cornered the toad”) or (ii) stick an apostrophe followed by an “s” at the end of the word, just as you would with a non-”s”-ending word (“Chaps’s son is swallowing the toad”). These days, the second option (“Chaps’s son”) is preferred, but you can use either without raising the ire of grammarians and punctuation aficionados, as long as you don’t mix the two options, in which case you will raise the ire not only of grammarians and punctuation aficionados but also of people who crave consistency in their reading material and of people who normally don’t care about much of anything, and the townspeople are liable to appear at your door in the middle of the night with torches and bad intentions. So be careful!

Hoping that toad is still alive and well,

Epilogue: The toad in question was unharmed.


  • Tracy:

    I’ll get my torch ready, just in case.

  • km:

    I didn’t know the s’s was accepted now. My Catholic nuns’ education (i.e. batter it into you) requires me to use the s’. I get hives if I don’t.
    I also, to this day;
    am very quiet in any house of worship (of any religion)
    whisper very softly in a library
    can’t walk across a grave (in US cemeteries this is very hard as they are usually all lawn-like with tiny markers:it’s much easier in Ireland with fine hefty marble curbing)

    Amazing what they get into your head

    • Charles:

      Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I was taught just to use the s’ in grade school as well, so that might have been what Cat missed in second grade. The lesson wasn’t drilled into me as mercilessly as it was drilled into you, though, so when I found out later that the s’s was not only acceptable but preferred, I embraced it immediately, forsook the s’, and never looked back.

  • Charles,

    Just have to say that I truly, deeply and unequivocally love your writing.

    That’s all.


    • Charles:

      Becky –

      You have my unswerving, unqualified, undying gratitude.

      That’s all.