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I'm subbing a piece a of writing that contains the following sentence.

‘Press Heavenwards!’ exclamation mark gives away a Godspeed influence.

'Press Heavenwards!' is a song title that includes an exclamation mark. In our publication song titles are distinguished by single quote marks. Obviously the possessive case of the song title is being used, but how to signify it?

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    Is it the exclamation mark which is an issue, or the use of single quotes to denote a title which is confounding adding an apostrophe?
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 9:34
  • Both make it awkward. I have seen possessive apostrophes used with scare quotes, with curly quotes for the scare quotes and the apostrophe (straight quote) inside the scare quotes. If it were not for the exclamation mark I would probably do that. Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 9:42
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    I'd avoid the whole apostrophe issue by rewording it to say, "The exclamation mark in the song title 'Press Heavenwards!' gives away a Godspeed influence." Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 15:49
  • Obviously the possessive case of the song title is being used... Perhaps. Another take on this might be, Obviously the first word of the sentence is missing! The ‘Press Heavenwards!’ exclamation mark gives away a Godspeed influence.
    – Reg Edit
    Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 18:02
  • It should be: “Press Heavenward!”’s exclamation mark... Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 4:03

3 Answers 3

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Setting the title in italics, which is not unusual, would solve the problem:

Press Heavenwards!’s exclamation mark gives away a Godspeed influence.

If setting in italics is not an option, perhaps because of your house style, then the quotation marks collide with the necessary apostrophe, as you've noted. It’s also likely that that sentence would be pronounced as heavenwards’ rather than heavenwards’s, which causes its own difficulties in adding ’s to the title.

One solution is to recast the sentence in order not to use the Saxon genitive:

The exclamation mark of ‘Press Heavenwards!’ gives away a Godspeed influence.
The exclamation mark in the title of ‘Press Heavenwards!’ gives away a Godspeed influence.

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  • Yes house style insists on single quotes. I'm thinking of recasting, but it's politically awkward as I'm a brand new sub and I'm editing a star writer's copy. Interesting problem though. Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 10:01
  • So TBC we've established, utterly, that you can not use italics and the nature of the question is without recasting. Is that correct??
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 15:29
  • Italics is not included in the house style guide. Apart from that, I'm not interested in politics. If a sentence needs to be recast, it needs to be recast.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 15:36
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It should be:

The exclamation mark of "Press Heavenward!" gives away a Godspeed influence.

The exclamation mark in the title of "Press Heavenward!" gives away a Godspeed influence.

The following are incorrect:

The exclamation mark of ‘Press Heavenwards!’ gives away a Godspeed influence.

The exclamation mark in the title of ‘Press Heavenwards!’ gives away a Godspeed influence.

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  • Firstly, the text is quoting a song title, so it is not appropriate to change the title by dropping the "s" from "Heavenwards". But secondly, why do you even think that that "s" is incorrect? Have you checked a dictionary?
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 4:21
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‘Press Heavenwards!’'s exclamation mark gives away a Godspeed influence.

Looks perfectly normal.

What else can you do? If your publication always uses single quotes for titles, that's the end of it.

This would come up every time you have a title ending with "s", so .. so what?

Seems to be a case of "what else can you do?"

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