If you have a possessive proper noun but want to add extra detail by using dashes, how should it be written?


Penny - our neighbour - has blonde hair.

Would any of these options be correct?

  1. Penny's - our neighbour - hair is blonde.
  2. Penny - our neighbour's - hair is blonde.
  3. Penny's - our neighbour's - hair is blonde.

I know it's not an ideal construction, but I'd still like to know.

  • 1
    None of those options is remotely idiomatic English as I know it. AFAICS, if you're going to use the possessive, you have to forgo the parenthetic comment (even if the parenthetic remark is marked by dashes instead of brackets/parentheses). "Our neighbour Penny's hair is blonde" works for me, but isn't wholly comfortable. – Jonathan Leffler Sep 10 '15 at 19:43
  • In speech, I think Penny—our neighbor—her hair is blond might be just as likely as any of the constructions above. But I would avoid all of them in writing. – Peter Shor Oct 11 '15 at 1:36

In my opinion (English is a very personal language) your initial thought "Penny - our neighbour - has blonde hair." is to be preferred. I would avoid the three alternatives you give; they seem to me to be ugly and difficult to parse. If I were writing this, I'd use commas rather than dashes - it's more conventional.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.