The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar.

Disclaimer: I am not a Grammar Nazi. Hell, I can hardly spell, much less string a proper sentence together, but on occasion I run into one of those little rules of grammar that bug me for one reason or another. One that has gotten me arguing recently is whether singular possessive nouns that end in "s" should be given and apostrophe and another "S" or whether the apostrophe should stand alone. In short, which of the following is correct: Charles's or Charles'? Or are they both acceptable at this time?

Here's why I ask -- from my meager research it seems clear that the proper first singular plural form is Charles's (see here, here, and here), but the overwhelming majority of writers seem to use Charles' instead (see here, here, and here). (Interestingly, the Texas A&M Style Guide states that names ending in "s" should only be followed by an apostrophe, but seeking grammar advise from Texas A&M seems about as wise as seeking advice on good bar-b-que from a Yankee).

Up until a couple of years ago, I placed a lone apostrophe behind all possessives ending in "s," whether singular or plural, but now I am going with Strunk on the subject. I am a traditionalist by nature, but much like Liberals view of the Constitution, I tend to view grammar and a living organism that evolves over time. William Safire cemented this concept in my brain when I read one of his old columns about "retronyms." With that in mind, I'm willing to accept that should the overwhelming majority of individuals decide to dispense with the extra "s" following singular possessives ending in "s," then I'm willing to go along for the ride.

I'd be curious to hear what other people think about this example and perhaps provide others of rules that are being broken to the point where the error is now the rule.

Addendum: And what the hell's up with commas joining sets? Is it "Jimmy, Johnny, and I" or "Jimmy, Johnny and I"? I used to use the latter, but I've switched to the former over the past few years. Everybody tells me that either is correct as long as you're consistent, but that sounds like a copout.
Centinel 10:22 PM #


The Chicago Manual of Style, Buckley, and Garner all say "s's," so that's good enough for me.

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