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What is the correct possessive for nouns ending in s?
When did it become correct to add an 's' to a singular possessive already ending in 's'?

I've always heard that when talking about stuff belonging to either a Jones or many Jones, you'd write Jones' (pronounced "Joneses"). But recently I've stumbled upon a book which consistently uses Jones's when talking of a single Jones.

What's the correct way of using possesives?


Both are used. This is an area of controversy where no 'correct' way has been established. Some sources would say that Oliver Twist is Dickens' character while other sources (like Strunk & White) would say that he is Dickens's character. See this page for a brief exploration of some of the rules different sources use in different situations.

It's probably safest to stick with the 's ending unless it would make the pronunciation awkward or violate historical usage. For instance, you would want to write Achilles' heel, not Achilles's heel.

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  • 2
    No! It's "my Achilles heel", but "Achilles's heel was his secret weakness", just as it's "his Martin Luther King determination", but "Martin Luther King's determination was phenomenal". – H Stephen Straight Jul 16 '14 at 22:39

The rule I was taught when I was young was that one would use the s' when there is more than one syllable in the name, and s's when there is only one. The s following the apostrophe is pronounced whenever it occurs in writing.

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  • Pronunciation is indeed the key: Dialects differ even though the "grammar" of this issue strongly favors the inclusion (and pronunciation) of the possessive s on any singular noun, whether it ends in s (or z) or not. So: "Jones's" and "Horowitz's" but "the Joneses' house" and "the Horowitzes' house" (because they already have the fricative plural ending--which is not the case for "children's" or "mice's", where the s possessive is added to a plural noun). (Some dialects even leave off the plural suffix on nouns that end in s, so that "the Horowitzes' house" becomes "the Horowitz' house".) – H Stephen Straight Jul 16 '14 at 22:46

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