Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Possessives -- Possessed by Satan?

Style guides' "helpful" advice. Behold pure evil!

Chicago Manual of Style
James's words
James' sake
James's seat

Associated Press Stylebook
James' words
James' sake
James' seat
BUT
The boss's words
The boss' sake
The boss' seat

Strunk & White's The Elements of Style*
James's words
James's sake
James's seat
BUT
Jesus' words
Jesus' sake
Jesus' seat

* As I've noted here, Strunk and White have less authority than these other two.

4 comments:

R.S. said...

Definitely off topic but I just (seriously - the book is still warm from my hands!) finished reading Grammar Snobs and I think I love you. All the best and thank you for such an enjoyable read.

June Casagrande said...

Just back from an extended tour in computer hell (thanks, in part, to the hacks at CompUSA who assured me that I wouldn't lose any files before they lost all my files) and I find this!

What a nice thing to come back to! I'm glad you enjoyed the book and thank you for letting me know!

- June

Andy said...

I love your book. I've been listening to the audio version on the way to and from work. Twice I've nearly lost control of the car because I was laughing so hard.

How would I handle the possessive of a family who's last name is James? For instance, the house that belongs to the group of people who's last name is James.

The Jameses house.
The Jameses' house.
The James's house.

My instinct tells me "James's," pronounced Jamesez, but I don't know if that's correct.

June Casagrande said...

To figure it out plural possessives, I have to take it step by step.

One James
Two Jameses
Latter made possessive: Jameses'

Regarding how it's pronounced: I dunno. (Don't know what "authority" to turn to.)

For singular possessive, "James's," I just say: "jaymz." For plural, I add the extra syllable, "jaymzez." For plural AND possessive, I pronunce it the same way as the plural nonpossessive, "jaymzez."

Thanks for the note! (I'm still surprised they wanted to make an audio book out of a book that requires so much spelling and distinguishing between "boss's" and "bosses." But the narrator does an awesome job.)

- J

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