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Sunday, August 28, 2022

So, how much do you know about apostrophes?

cj Sez: How to properly use an apostrophe in some plurals has always plagued me, especially when input from critique readers challenges me.

  I always have to get on the Internet and search for verification, so I decided to go to THE source for writers: The Chicago Manual of Style. I thought I'd share some of my findings with you. 

  A Google search for how to use apostrophes gave me the following excerpts of questions from wordsmiths and answers provided by a CMOS correspondent:

Plural Names

Q. My boyfriend and I are having a battle royal over the use of apostrophes in plural names. In his PhD dissertation he repeatedly refers to a family by the name of Wallace. When he refers to them in the plural, he insists that the correct form is “the Wallace’s,” which seems entirely incorrect to me. I hold that it should be “the Wallaces,” just like “the McDonalds” or “the McPartlands” or “the DeVitos.” He is backing up his position with the example “the G.I.s,” which he insists should be pluralized as “the G.I.’s.” Please help. This is ruining our dinner conversation! 

Shame on this school.
Correct plural is Veterans!!
A. Usually in such arguments, the woman is right. Yours is no exception. The plural of names of persons and other capitalized nouns is usually formed with the addition of s or es. An apostrophe is never used to form the plural of family names. Write “the Wallaces,” “the Joneses,” the “Jordans,” etc. See paragraph 7.8 of the sixteenth edition of CMOS for the full statement of the applicable rule. As for G.I., Chicago style is GI (no periods), the plural of which we write as GIs. See 10.4 and 7.14.

Possessives and Attributives

Q. When indicating possession of a word that ends in s, is it correct to repeat the s after using an apostrophe? For example, which is correct: “Dickens’ novel” or “Dickens’s novel”?

A. Either is correct, though we prefer the latter. Please consult 7.15–18 for a full discussion of the rules for forming the possessive of proper nouns. For a discussion of the alternative practice of simply adding an apostrophe to form the possessive of proper nouns ending in s, see paragraph 7.21.

Q. I have suddenly become an editor and am having trouble on a daily basis with the numeric use of decades. First, is “the 90s” or “the ’90s” correct? We often see the apostrophe omitted these days. Next, if a sentence contains the phrase, “Perhaps the 70s best director . . .” (meaning, the best director of that decade), “70s” is both plural and possessive. Should it be “70’s”? “70s’”? Other than reconstructing the sentence, what’s an editor to do? 

A. Strictly speaking, ’90s, with the apostrophe, is correct.

"The ’70s’ finest director was Martin Scorsese, particularly for his work on Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Taxi Driver."

Note the apostrophes, both of them. You are always free to write “seventies’ finest.” Or, “The finest director of the ’70s was assuredly Francis Ford Coppola, for his work on the first two Godfather films and Apocalypse Now.” 


cj Sez: By the by, instead of popping for $50+ dollars to buy The Chicago Manual of Style, it may be available to use for free at your local library…it is in mine. 

  And FYI, The Associated Press Stylebook used by journalists has different rules.

(Note: The CMOS citation numbers in the answers are from the Sixteenth Edition.)

  Hope you found a nugget in this post that you can use.


That’s it for today’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. Raising prayers for your health and safety during these uncertain times.


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