John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Keeping up with the Joneses
Snopes’s or Snopes’
No matter how many times you have seen it done, do not make nouns plural by adding ’s. The Smith’s is not a proper plural. Neither is the Jones'. The apostrophe can, however, be used to make individual letters — all A’s in the editing class — or numerals — aces and 8’s — plural.
Either Jones’s or Jones’ may be used for the singular possessive. Both usages are current; which one you choose will depend on the style your publication prefers.
Watch out for words that form plurals without adding s or es. If you write childrens’ — and people do — your literacy will be called into question.
Such is the melancholy state of education in this proud republic that I must conduct this elementary review every semester for juniors and seniors at a private university. It would therefore not come as a great shock if some of you would benefit from it, too.