Baby one more time

That’s right – we’re back for a sequel to last week’s post on possessive apostrophes. Yay! Today’s instalment is all about the various ways of dealing with this issue:

Is it Britney Spears’ legacy or Britney Spears’s legacy?

In other words, how do we take a singular noun that ends in s and make it possessive? As I said last week, this is a style issue, which means there’s no definitive right or wrong way – you just need to pick an approach and stick to it.

Here’s what some of the style bigwigs say (remember proper nouns are names of people, places or organisations; common nouns are names of things).

AP Stylebook (Associated Press)

For common nouns, use apostrophe + s (the pop princess’s hits), but use apostrophe only if the s is silent (the rendezvous’ result) or the next word begins in s (the pop princess’ singles). For proper nouns, use apostrophe only (Britney Spears’ legacy).

AMA Manual of Style (American Medical Association)

Use apostrophe + s in all cases unless the word is Jesus or Moses, in which case use apostrophe only (with Jesus’ help).

APA Style (American Psychological Association)

For proper nouns, use apostrophe + s in all cases, unless the s is silent, in which case use apostrophe only (Illinois’ concertgoers).

Chicago Manual of Style

For common nouns, use apostrophe + s in all cases, but use apostrophe only in for . . . sake expressions (for goodness’ sake). For proper nouns, use apostrophe + s, but use apostrophe only if: (a) the s is silent, although is optional (Illinois’ concertgoers OR Illinois’s concertgoers); (b) the word has two syllables or more and ends in an eez sound (her Achilles’ heel); or (c) it is a for . . . sake expression (for Jesus’ sake).

Fowler’s Modern English Usage

For proper nouns, use apostrophe + s, but use apostrophe only if the word is an “ancient classical name” (her Achilles’ heel) or ends in an iz sound (Lynne Bridges’ daughter). 

MLA Style Manual (Modern Language Association)

For proper nouns, use apostrophe + s in all cases. 

University of Oxford Style Guide

Use apostrophe + s in all cases.

If you made it this far, I’m genuinely amazed.

Long story short, it’s up to you (or your employer) which style guide you follow. Personally, if I’m working for a client, I follow whatever rules they tell me to. If I’m just writing independently, I follow the Chicago style (opting to include the extra s in cases like Illinois’s concertgoers) with just one exception: I like Fowler’s ruling on iz endings, so I would write Lynne Bridges’ daughter, not Lynne Bridges’s daughter