The golfer Tiger Woods's clubs... -or-

The golfer Tiger Woods' clubs...

The last name Woods is not biblical, etc. It is singular when it refers to the person, Tiger Woods. It is plural when it is the word, "woods".

I have, literally, seen it both ways, online and in newsprint, and ask which is correct. (I'll go out on a limb and say that the first example seems right to me, and yet it is the second example that I see more often in print and online)

Thank you very much for any education you can provide me on this matter. Sincerely, Sven

  • Thank you for the link, tchrist. From the link you gave me (and Strunk&White): "Examples they give include Kansas’s, Ross’s land, and Jones’s reputation. Exceptions include Jesus’  and Moses’." So, I think Biblical does have something to do with choosing possessives (but Woods is not a Biblical name, for sure). I can see saying this Woods clubs or Woodss clubs, so my ear is an unreliable source (as is the ear of the various journalists that use it both ways). Which way do you say it, and thus, which do you think is correct, please? – user71187 Apr 6 '14 at 0:16
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    Read the answer, not the question. There is nothing whatsoever Biblical about any rule. The only rule is to write down what people say, and there is no exception to this: speech is primary. Most people would say Tiger Woods’s clubs with an extra syllable, so you have to write what they say. Pay no attention to the media: they are notoriously under- or mis-educated in matters orthographical and philological. – tchrist Apr 6 '14 at 0:17
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    'Boss', 'princess' and 'Woods' are singular nouns. BBC WS advises ... if the singular noun ends in 's' as in your example, ... you can either just add an apostrophe (') or apostrophe s ('s): 'All of Dickens' novels have now been adapted for television.' 'All of Dickens's novels have now been adapted for television.' I'm sure tchrist would endorse this in spite of its source; he goes further, giving a sensible reason for choosing a particular version, based on pronunciation. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 6 '14 at 7:54

Although Woods' is often used by writers who should know better, it is a mistake:

Strunk and White - Form the possessive singular of nouns with 's.

Form the possessive singular of nouns with 's.

Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

Charles's friend
Burns's poems
the witch's malice

This is the usage of the United States Government Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press.

When used as proper names, Woods or Burns are singular forms.

For further reference, see Apostrophes; Lesson Five - Possessive nouns;

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    Why should one accept S & W's recommendations over those of other style gurus (and possibly prevailing usage)? – Edwin Ashworth Apr 6 '14 at 7:49
  • @EdwinAshworth : Because they make sense: A proper name is not plural. Besides, they bring authoritative references, and I have added some more sources. Do you have a source which contradicts them? Oxford University Press is not sufficient? You are free to bring another source and answer the question differently, if you disagree. – Vector Apr 6 '14 at 9:31
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    They don't make as much sense as tchrist's 'general rule' as he calls it in the previous answer. CMOS says 'Either is correct, though we prefer the latter.' Associated Press (AP) and Modern Language Association (MLA) require '. The Guardian-Observer SG seems to make more sense: 'The possessive in words and names ending in S normally takes an apostrophe followed by a second S (Jones's, James's), but be guided by pronunciation and use the [bare] apostrophe where it helps: Mephistopheles', Waters', Hedges', not Mephistopheles's, Waters's, Hedges's.' The apostrophe is a servant, not a sacred cow. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 6 '14 at 14:46
  • @EdwinAshworth - be guided by pronunciation - I think it depends on the word - I hear the argument for Mephistopheles. Regardless Woods'just sounds wrong - you don't hear the possessive. – Vector Apr 6 '14 at 19:16