Tag Archives: possessive

St. Mary’s Bells

Having spent hours looking up a rule of punctuation, I’m giving up and turning to you, smart and learned readers.

The question is: How does one punctuate the possessive form of a name that is already possessive? Put another way, when the name of a store or a church is possessive—ending in apostrophe-s—and is used in the possessive, is a second apostrophe added? How about another s, while we’re at it?

Here’s an example: The name of the store is Trader Joe’s. I want to refer to their produce. If I say “Trader Joe’s produce is always fresh,” that appears to refer to the produce of one man, Trader Joe. It would make sense to write, “Trader Joe’s’ produce is always fresh,” but we all know English does not always make sense. And that second apostrophe looks like a second thumb on one hand.

Here’s another example: Say St. Michael’s Catholic Church, familiarly called “St. Michael’s,” has a website. Would we refer to it as “St. Michael’s website?” If so, would that not imply that St. Michael himself had a website?

As I said, I’ve looked high and low for the answer, in the collection of style guides that live on my shelves and on the Internet. There are volumes about the possessive of plural nouns, proper nouns and words ending in sibilants (I had to look up sibilant). When I found a tip about double possessives, I thought I was on to something, but it had nothing to do with my question.

Please don’t suggest I flip it around. “The nuts at Trader Joe’s” would be cheating and I’d like to crack this one.

It looks as though the person who named the film The Bells of St. Mary’s took the easy way out.

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They is wrong

According to the Fake AP Stylebook’s April 21 Facebook post:  “Avoid using masculine pronouns in sentences where the subject’s gender is not specified.  Broads find it offensive.”

What this broad finds offensive is the subject/pronoun disagreement that often occurs as a result of a writer’s attempt at political correctness.

I am a firm believer that political correctness and grammatical correctness are not mutually exclusive.  (Though if I did have to choose?  Hmmm.)

It is incorrect to suggest that “everyone have their say” or “the winner deserves their prize.”  In these instances, because the subject is singular,“their” should be “his.”   “He” and “his” are considered gender neutral, even though they are masculine pronouns.  For those sensitive to gender equity in grammar, “his or her” is perfectly acceptable.  Or,  if we know that the subject, say “winner” in the earlier example, is female, we may say “the winner deserves her prize.  “Their” is just plain wrong.

Also, remember that “everyone” is singular, even though it sounds like a lot of people.  Every one.   So please do not say “everyone is entitled to their opinion.”  

I recently stumbled on a blog that claims to specialize in writing.  I won’t call out the blogger by name because I know how hard it is to churn out copy day after day, and I am the first to admit that, in so doing, I make mistakes regularly. There is a difference between making a mistake and deliberately breaking a well-known rule.

The blogger wrote this week, “It helps a writer’s ego as well as their ability to write if they have peers to read and give feedback on their work.” 

The writer is a “he” or a “she,” not a “they;” otherwise, it would be “writers’ egos” and “writers’ work,” plural.  And if the choice is to go plural possessive, please note where the apostrophe goes.

Six days earlier, the same blogger wrote:  “Everyone has read a bit of bad prose or poetry in their life and access to the Internet seems to make it easier to point out other’s grammatical and spelling errors as well as their downright awful writing in general.”

Oh, really?

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