Friday, November 18, 2016

The Plural Possessive Refresher We All Need, Even Though No One Wants It

...And Just in Time for Christmas Cards!

I bring you the following Public Service Announcement, from your friendly grammar-girl editing professional. This is just in time for Christmas cards, in case you want to have them grammatically correct.

(If you know what's correct, and you choose to knowingly do it wrong because "you don't care if it's wrong because you think it looks better that way"—you know who you are!—then this post is not for you. Carry on.)

However, if you really do want to have it right, but grammar was never your big thing, here you go. (I really am a Grammar Geek. I have always loved it. Weird, I know, but true!)

Plurals and Possessives of Names
If you have a straightforward name that doesn't end in any problematic letters, things are pretty straightforward:

* Lucy Clark
* Lucy Clark's book
* Lucy's book
* the Clark family
* eat with the Clarks
* eat at the Clarks' home (because it belongs to all of them)
* Love, the Clarks (not Love, the Clark's)

The main "rule" to remember is that you never, never, never form a plural with an apostrophe. Just don't. (Yes, those of you "in-the-know" grammar types realize that this statement is not technically 100% true, because you do make the plural of a single letter using an apostrophe, but that is rare, so for now, just remember that all ordinary plurals—including your family names—do not use an apostrophe. Ever.)

If you happen to have one of those names that ends in a letter or letter combination that requires creating an interesting plural before adding possession, you have some special things to learn regarding your name.

PLEASE NOTE: Microsoft Word does not get this right. It can't read your mind, and it doesn't know how many people you mean. If you have auto-correct on, it will often change your word to something wrong even if you typed it right. It does not necessarily know more than you do.  It is not always right! Just be careful and check your "think-it-knows-better-than-you" auto-correct function—don't just accept it as right because Microsoft Word said so!

These are the correct forms for your "exceptional" name:

* Chris Sanchez
* Chris Sanchez's book
* Chris's book (NOT Chris' book)
* the Sanchez family
* eat with the Sanchezes
* eat at the Sanchezes' home (NOT the Sanchez's home)
* eat at the Sanchez home (my personal preference with these kinds of names and spellings, since it is seemingly less strange)
* Love, the Sanchezes (NOT Love, the Sanchez's) or Love, the Sanchez family (less awkward)

This is true for other names, as well:

Esther Cavendish
Esther Cavendish's book
Esther's book
the Cavendish family
eat with the Cavendishes
eat at the Cavendishes' home (NOT the Cavendish's home)
eat at the Cavendish home
Love, the Cavendishes (NOT Love, the Cavendish's)

Patsy Fahs
Patsy Fahs's book (NOT Patsy Fahs' book)
Patsy's book
the Fahs family
eat with the Fahses
eat at the Fahses' home (NOT the Fahs's home)
eat at the Fahs home 
Love, the Fahses (NOT Love, the Fahs' or Love, the Fahs's)

Rita Cox
Rita Cox's book
Rita's book
the Cox family
eat with the Coxes
eat at the Coxes' home (NOT the Cox's home)
eat at the Cox home
Love, the Coxes (NOT Love, the Cox's)

Mike Church
Mike Church's book
Mike's book
the Church family
eat with the Churches
eat at the Churches' home (NOT the Church's home)
eat at the Church home
Love, the Churches (NOT Love, the Church's)

David Monteaux
David Monteaux's book
David's book
the Monteaux family
eat with the Monteauxs 
eat at the Monteauxs' home (NOT the Monteaux's home)
eat at the Monteaux home
(Note that this is "wrong" in French, because the name is Monteau, and Monteaux is the correct plural. But often, during Americanization, French family names keep the -eaux form, thereby "messing up" the plurals and plural possessives forever!)
Love, the Monteauxs (NOT Love, the Monteaux's)

Mike Teixeira
Mike Teixeira's book
Mike's book
the Teixeira family
eat with the Teixeiras (NOT the Teixeira's)
eat at the Teixeiras' home
eat at the Teixeira home
Love, the Teixeiras (NOT Love, the Teixeira's)

Rose Williams
Rose Williams's book (NOT Rose Williams' book)
Rose's book
the Williams family
eat with the Williamses (NOT the Williams's)
eat at the Williamses' home (NOT the William's home or the Williams's home)
eat at the Williams home
Love, the Williamses (NOT Love, the Williams's)

Heather Jones
Heather Jones's book (NOT Heather Jones' book)
Heather's book
the Jones family
eat with the Joneses (NOT the Jones's)
eat at the Joneses' home (NOT the Jones's)
eat at the Jones home
Love, the Joneses (NOT Love, the Jones's)

EXCEPTION: Ancient Classical names have a special exception to these rules. So, though it is correctly written Davis's message, it would be Moses' message, Jesus' sermon, or Socrates' teachings. Maybe someday Davis will be ancient and famous enough for us to refer to Davis' message, but for now, it's just wrong.

So, there you have it. Do with it what you will...

And remember (as I always try to):


And so, to balance things out, here's a great article: "How to Quit Being a Grammar Snob." I'm not quite there yet, but I'm 100x better because of the author, my friend Brian Wasko, and his influence over the past several years. Thank you, Brian. (And yes, I'm still working on it! Especially at this time of year!)

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