Mine! Mine! Mine!“Mine! Mine! Mine!” Children master the concept of possession early on (as anyone who’s spent time around a toddler can attest!), but the concept of punctuating possessives doesn’t always come as easily. Here are five points to consider when facing possessive predicaments.

  1. Before you go any further, make sure that you have a possessive noun and not just a plural one. If ownership is involved, then you have a possessive situation. But if you simply have more than one of something, then you have a plural situation. For example, “Paul’s punctuation is perfect in all situations.”
  2. When you have a singular noun, add ’s to form the possessive in most cases. For example, “Suzy’s spelling is superb, and Charles’s copy is colorful.” Note that an ’s is still added when the singular noun ends in s, x, or z. Not all style guides agree on this though, with some drawing a distinction based upon whether the s is silent or pronounced in possessive situations. And if you think that seems too simple, you’re right—there are a couple of exceptions to complicate matters. Exception 1: Traditionally, certain historical and biblical names ending in s only take an apostrophe in the possessive form, such as Achilles’ heel or Jesus’ followers. But some style guides now recommend using an ’s to form these possessives. Exception 2: Certain singular nouns used with for . . . sake simply require an apostrophe to form the possessive, though not all instances work this way. For example, you would write for righteousness’ sake or for goodness’ sake, but you would also write for heaven’s sake. But, once again, not all style guides agree, so you should refer to a manual suitable for your topic.Make sure you punctuate possesives correctly.
  3. For plural nouns ending in s, simply place an apostrophe at the end to make them possessive. For example, “Pupils’ penmanship will improve with practice.”
  4. With plural nouns that don’t already end in s, add ’s to create the possessive. For example, “Children’s books are valuable teaching instruments.”
  5. One last thing—don’t think that you must insert an apostrophe somewhere in a word to show possession. Pronouns like his, her, my, or your show possession without an apostrophe. And the same is true for the pronouns its and whose. For example, “I read your essay, but whose idea was it to remove its punctuation?” It’s and who’s are contractions for it is or it has and who is or who has.

Do you have any helpful hints for dealing with possessives? Please leave a comment!

Advertisements